“One Nation, Under …” Duress

8 mins read

In the early morning hours of Independence Day 2020, I’ll be standing there, Old Glory in hand, wondering not which way is up, but how and when up became down.

The Flag & The Union: Up, Down or Out?

If ever there was a nation in distress, it is the United States of America in 2020.

If ever there was a time when the U.S. flag should be displayed upside down as a signal of that distress, the time is now. 

Today, my family and I will need to make two decisions.

Will we fly our Stars and Stripes to commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, as we have every July 4th of my adult life, along with all the Memorial Days, Labor Days and Veterans Days? If so, will we display it with the Union — the blue portion with white stars — up or down?

No Pity for “Patriots”

We are patriots. We love this nation. It is our home. But over the past few years, our feelings of pride have diminished significantly. 

We’ve watched in dismay as this nation has been subverted by a purveyor of ignorance — a racist and wannabe autocrat, and respect for the United States has waned around the world as a result. 

Fintan O’Toole, a columnist for the Irish Times, put it better than anyone —  

“Over more than two centuries, the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world: love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger. But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the US until now: pity.”

At this point in our nation’s history, with the counterfeit patriotism on display, that might be all we deserve.

What’s Wrong?

Better to ask, “What isn’t?”

First, we are in the midst of a global pandemic that is killing our citizens faster and in greater numbers than anywhere else on the planet. We continue to break daily infection records, almost on a daily basis. With the impending holiday weekend, the trend will likely continue; based on their actions so far, hundreds of thousands of people will gather, physical distancing and mask-wearing be damned.

Meanwhile, our abomination of a president lies as a rule, has zero integrity and refuses to exhibit even a shred of human decency. 

Through his actions and inactions, Donald Trump has caused unfathomable suffering and the death of many of our citizens by failing to act in the face of this deadly pandemic, misleading the public about the danger and discouraging the very actions that could stop the spread.

People with “essential” jobs continue to put their lives at risk during the pandemic to provide the rest of us gasoline and munchies. If they choose health instead, they not only lose the jobs but also eligibility for the pathetically inadequate safety net — unemployment benefits — the government provides. 

Trump and his cronies say some deaths are unavoidable, that they’re the cost of saving the economy. They’re OK with it.

Imagine any other president in our 244-year history saying it’s acceptable to kill off some citizens for the good of the others. “Presidential legacy” would have been the least of their worries.

This false president turns a blind eye while an enemy pays bounties for killing U.S. soldiers, then panders to that very enemy at every turn. If that is not treason, I can’t imagine what possibly could be.

The GOP-controlled Senate exacerbates everything by letting Trump get away with systematically tearing down the norms and rules of law that make our democracy viable. More than that, the Republican senators help him do it.

Meanwhile …

Cops continue to kill people of color, bringing into stark relief the systemic racism and police brutality of the past 400 years and sparking protests across the nation.

White protesters toting automatic weapons demand a “reopening” of the country are handled with kid gloves and called “fine people.” Peaceful black protesters with signs are teargassed and labeled “thugs” and “terrorists.”

The economic gaps between the 1 percent and the rest of us, between women and men, and between whites and people of color continue to widen or remain stagnant. 

People continue to lose their jobs, health insurance and homes due to the economic instability in the midst of the pandemic.

Politicians and corporations are perfectly comfortable destroying Earth for personal gain, never mind the fact that within 10 or 12 years we will reach a point of no return

And, finally, in what to me epitomizes what is wrong in this nation right now, people are refusing one small inconvenience — wearing a f*cking mask in public — to protect their fellow citizens from the deadly virus, citing “liberty” and “freedom.” What they don’t understand is liberty and freedom have limits; they do not justify actions that harm others.

There’s so much more, but you’re living it, too. You know.

None of this represents the United States of America or the patriotism I believe in.

So. Up or Down?

The U.S. Flag Code states, “The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.”

The extreme danger is here, and it’s gone beyond life and property; this republic and its ongoing experiment in democracy are seriously threatened. 

I’d say that’s a justification for a distress signal if ever there was one.

So there I’ll stand in the early morning hours of Independence Day, Old Glory in hand. Do I raise it? If so, will the union be up or down? And I’ll wonder … in the coming months and years, will the Union itself be up, down or maybe even out?

If there is a U.S. flag out front two days hence, I’d like it to be signaling distress. Not just because it’s true, but also because at this time, under these circumstances and in the context of an absolute leadership failure …

It’s patriotic.


Read more by Martin Fredericks IV here: IV Words blog.


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Martin C. “Red” Fredricks IV is a husband, father of three, proud Fargoan (N.D.), small business owner, reader, writer and progressive. He's also the founder of the IV Words Blog (ivwords.com) Finally, he's a ginger; ergo the “Red.” Living blue in a deep red state is tough, but somehow, day by day, he gets by.

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