I was born at 5:23AM on a hot summer morning in Tampa, Florida. The date was June 14, 1993. It was the first, and still one of the very few, times that I would be thrilled to be awake that early on a Monday. While the day is obviously special to me because it’s my birthday, it actually bears even more importance for me for another reason.
June 14 is Flag Day.
When people think of patriotic holidays in the United States, Flag Day is not usually the first holiday that comes to mind. Perhaps the most popular would be Independence Day. Every summer, people look forward to their Fourth of July plans which are almost guaranteed to include fireworks and some type of food on a grill.
People don’t really ask what your Flag Day plans are though. Growing up, I’d actually receive a small American Flag from my parents on each birthday. It became a birthday tradition for me to not only receive a flag but also to put it somewhere around the town. Whether it was a park or by a walkway, I enjoyed sharing the flag with those in my community.
I have strong memories associated with the flag. I am the first person in my family to be born in the United States and grew up seeing a picture of my father, filled with pride, at his naturalization ceremony to become an American citizen. I also have a vivid memory as a child of dressing up and going to a building and seeing a crowd of people stand up and say the Pledge of Allegiance. One of the members in that crowd was my mother and that was the day she became an American citizen.
Most recently, prior to the ongoing pandemic, I was very grateful that I was able to witness my grandfather’s naturalization ceremony in Florida in January 2020. I am rarely speechless but there was something profoundly moving about seeing my grandfather become an American citizen at the age of eighty after several decades in the United States.
That day will forever be one of my most treasured memories.
In addition to the flag being so ingrained with family memories, as if by divine providence, I ended up attending college in Troy, New York, the hometown of Uncle Sam and what used to be the largest Flag Day Parade in the country. The American flag has always simultaneously served as a reminder of my heritage and my future.
As time went on though, I learned that someone else shared a birthday with me on Flag Day.
President Donald Trump was also born on June 14.
Over the past four years, I’ve seen people utilize the American Flag as a symbol to represent one man rather than the collective values and ideas of the nation it embodies. What was once viewed as patriotism has been twisted to be synonymous with nationalism and exclusion. A symbol that once represented a country of over 330,000,000 people has been utilized to promote division.
I have had many conversations with people that they are skeptical of seeing those with American flag emojis in their Twitter handle, American flags flying in their lawn, or American flags in their profile pictures. When many see the flag, they no longer see the best of what the United States represents and has to offer.
In addition to being visually beautiful, Old Glory is a powerful symbol. While most know that the thirteen stripes represent the thirteen original colonies and the fifty stars represent the states, it is less known that the red, white, and blue represent values including loyalty, truth, justice, courage, and rectitude of conduct.
I won’t stand idly by and the flag of the nation I love be co-opted by individuals who regularly betray the values it represents.
I will be updating my social media presence to reclaim the American Flag and I invite you all to join me. I’ll be using an American flag profile picture frame on Facebook and will be updating my Twitter name to include an American flag emoji.
The flag belongs to all of us in the United States no matter your identity and my hope is that we can again ensure that everybody in the country views it a symbol of “liberty and justice for all.”