Kelly Gleason: Whose Flag Is it?

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Whose flag is it? Is it just the property of right-wing groups? Kelly Gleason says it's time the left reclaimed America’s most powerful national symbol.

I never thought I would fly the American flag. My family has had two religions — music and distrust of government in all its forms. My mom was suspended from Berkeley High because she wouldn’t stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, and when my grandfather was placed on Nixon’s enemies list, he believed it to be the highest honor the government could bestow. For weeks afterward my mom and aunt would answer the phone, “Nixon’s Enemies List Headquarters, how may we direct your call?”

My partner and I bought our home in the spring of 2019, and a worn American flag graced the portico that overlooks our eclectic, suburban street. It’s our first house, and in a lot of ways it reminds me of my Grandma’s. It has the same sort of warmth, the same sort of enchantment that only an old house can have. The flag came with the house. We didn’t take it down, and I didn’t quite know why.

When George Floyd was killed we lowered our flag and replaced it with one that affirmed that Black lives matter. This was temporary I wanted to fly them both. When I bought a second flag pole online, Amazon’s algorithm suggested I may be interested in a Trump flag. This told me two important things: that Amazon needed to refine their algorithm, and that not enough liberals fly the flag.

It’s time we take it back. I’m tired of seeing racists drape themselves in America’s greatest symbol while espousing policies that so clearly do not make America great. Former President Trump’s 1776 Commission was designed to instill a “patriotic education” while overlooking much of our flawed history. But it is possible to love this country and the promise that it attempts without denying the atrocities of its past.

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To hoist the flag now, as our country is once again buckling with division and discord, is an act of progressive reclamation. In the tradition of my family, I still listen to music on vinyl, and I remain deeply skeptical of government. But I believe in the Great American Project, and I believe in the American people. And so I’m reclaiming the flag. I hope you’ll join me.

With a Perspective, I’m Kelly Gleason.

Kelly Gleason is an educator and filmmaker flying the flag from his home in San Bruno.