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All Flags Must Come Down

Op/Ed By George Payne


Founder and Director Gandhi Earth Keepers International

Founder and Director
Gandhi Earth Keepers International

The Confederate flag is disgraceful. It represents a corrupt heritage, which is fundamentally rooted in chauvinism, bigotry, segregation and militarism. These flags should be torn down from every monument, hallway, rooftop, and courthouse in our nation. And, not because a deranged young man dishonored the Confederate flag’s true meaning, but because the true meaning of the Confederate flag is, in itself, dishonorable.

But, why not abolish the United States flag as well? The two atomic bombs that eviscerated Nagasaki and Hiroshima were not dropped in the name of the Confederate flag. What is more, the Vietnam war, and its myriad atrocities, had not been fought to preserve the “Stars and Bars.”

Over the past decade, hundreds of presidentially authorized drone strikes have killed innocent civilians in Yemen, Gaza, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere. These hellfire missiles have been delivered with the seal of our nation’s most reproduced and revered logo. In truth, every American crime against humanity – from the genocide of indigenous peoples, to the suppression of freedom movements in Latin America, to over-fishing the Atlantic Ocean and drilling in the Artic – has been done in the name of a flag which is pinned to every leader’s chest, and sewn on every soldiers arm.

In general, flags symbolize, and sometimes actively promote, some of the most destructive human emotions, which include tribalism, narrow mindedness, intolerance, crude patriotism, jingoism, and a feeling of superiority over other people, animals, and cultures. For these reasons, I believe all flags are dishonorable.

To stress my point, nearly every week there has been a mosque, schoolhouse, public building, or some other inviolable space that has been shot up by machine gun fire, sprayed with chemical explosives, or pulverized by remote control missiles. Soldiers, the commanders they follow, and the citizens they have sworn an oath to protect have been, on a regular basis, ordering, sanctioning, condoning and committing the indiscriminate killing of children and women. These communities are also composed of brown and black people who have had their lives cut short by heinous acts of random, politically-motivated violence.

But, these Charleston’s are not in the news. There are no cameras where there are no controversies, and there are no controversies where there are no questions being asked.

That being said, let me be clear. I am not calling for a universal human flag to replace the countless flags in existence today. I do not want to see the United Nations flag on every uniform, and federal building, from Chicago to Cairo. I actually believe we need a flag-less world. No more oaths, and no more pledges of allegiance.

To paraphrase Gandhi, “the only tyrant in this world that we should obey is the still small voice within.”

Moreover, I do not think getting rid of a single obnoxious flag is what we should be talking about right now. In a way, it has been a diversion engineered by greedy advertisers, and media executives, which  has disrespected the mourning process of these grief-stricken families. Instead of pointing fingers, and looking for the bad guy to publicly shame and execute, we should be seeking ways to take responsibility for the violence which we all participate in and perpetuate through our devotion to nationalism, endless warfare, and superiority of all kinds.

On a deeper level than racial vengeance and cultural ignorance, it was the prospect of a “purer” nationhood that motivated Roof to carry out his evil mission. He was willing to kill, and die, for his concept of a new Rhodesia. How many readers are willing to kill, and die, or let others kill for them, for their concept of America? I suspect quite a few.