Monday, July 06, 2015

What, to a Native American, Is the US Flag?

We're coming up on the 12th of July in Ulster, which marks part of "marching season", which refers to the times when the opposing Ulster parties (Protestant/Catholic) parade their flags and banners, sometimes through the opponent's backyard.  I just came back from a drive on Elden Street in Herndon, where a number of houses had the US flag displayed.  Some perhaps from the Fourth, others probably an everyday display.

A flag is a symbol which cuts two ways--it symbolizes the unity of the faithful and divides the faithful from the infidel.  The Ulster example is (or was in the recent past) the most extreme one possible without having an armed conflict; the Herndon example is the most relaxed one possible without having the symbol lose all meaning.

Life is complicated.  The Times today has a story on the reconciliation between Vietnam and the US.  Accompanying it is a photo showing the Vietnamese and US flags displayed side by side. ("Seventy eight percent of Vietnamese said they had a favorable opinion of the United States in a poll published this year by the Pew Research Center. Among those under 30 years old, it was 88 percent.")  Why can Vietnamese and Americans reconcile when Protestants and Catholics can't, or at least couldn't until the end of the 20th century?

And I wonder: to Native Americans, what is the meaning of the U.S. flag?  At least outside the thirteen original states, it flew over the military which sometimes defeated their ancestors.

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