Americans were rightly bewildered to learn recently that, in the eyes of Colin Kaepernick and the Nike Corporation, the “Betsy Ross flag” that flew over the young United States in the late 18th century is a supposedly troubling and racist symbol. Kaepernick observed that the flag flew in an “era of slavery,” and that was all the prodding Nike needed to scrap the planned release of patriotic sneakers emblazoned with the offensive flag.
Social media has been in an uproar ever since, and with good reason.
Since our nation was born in 1776, dozens of flags have flown over it. Almost all have incorporated the horizontal red and white stripes that were first observed in the “Grand Union Flag” that in turn borrowed them from the flag of the (British) East India Company. The Betsy Ross flag added the dark blue field in the upper-left and the “new constellation” of 13 stars. Every American flag since then has been an elaboration of this original design.
Contrary to myth, there is little evidence that Betsy Ross, a Philadelphia upholsterer, contributed much to the design of the flag that now bears her name, although she may have suggested the five-pointed star instead of the six-pointed star in order to save herself some bother. Not exactly a profile in hyper-patriotism, but none of this prevented the Betsy Ross story, which posited George Washington and Mrs. Ross designing the flag together, from becoming national lore after our centennial celebrations in 1876. The country needed its heroes and heroines, and Betsy Ross fit the bill. It is an irony of Nike's current denigration of the flag that the practical effect of their historical revisionism is to erase one of America's first (and, for many years, one of its only) heroines from public memory.
The point of displaying the Betsy Ross flag, though, has never been to celebrate Betsy Ross, but to celebrate America in her formative years. The young republic, called The United States of America (and spoken of mostly in the plural until the Civil War) was a bold experiment in liberty and constitutionalism in an era of monarchical tyranny. It heralded the rise of a more individualistic and humane political philosophy that would make possible startling and unprecedented improvements in human welfare. Thus, the symbols of early America seem, on the face of it, something to celebrate rather than bemoan.
The late 18th century was an “era of slavery,” yes, but that was true throughout the world. Not a single country had abolished slavery, and few were inclined even to take the concept of abolition seriously. That is an indictment of America, but it is more accurately an indictment of humanity, which made copious use of slaves from ancient times until the mid-19th century.
If, therefore, the Betsy Ross flag is tainted by slavery, it is no more tainted than every symbol in wide use before the modern age, from the Christian cross to the Roman eagle to China's Yin and Yang. Should all these symbols be banned from modern apparel, and declared permanently offensive, because the people who used them also, in some cases, owned slaves? That would be absurd.
While many Americans may have limited appreciation for the Betsy Ross flag, which is seldom flown today, they ought to understand that the ultimate motivation for Colin Kaepernick and his fellow travelers on the far left is not the denigration of American history, but of America itself. This country, which was born to renew and expand human freedom, is, to the Left, instead a dark, sinister place of almost unparalleled wickedness and cruelty (unparalleled because liberals refuse to acknowledge wickedness and cruelty when it is practiced by people they like). The erasure of the symbols of America's past presages, for Kaepernick and his ilk, the obliteration of everything that America was and is, to be replaced by the newfangled values of political correctness, “wokeness,” and enforced equality.
It is, in fact, only a matter of time before even the current American flag must be permanently furled, and replaced with a new standard that more accurately represents the Marxist utopia that the Left has in store for us. We will be lucky if even so much as the red, white, and blue theme of the current flag survives, amid an explosion of new symbolism and imagery that will represent the countless ethnicities, genders, and other officially approved identities that will be mandatory elements of the New Flag of New America.
Make no mistake: those who seek to erase the Betsy Ross Flag, the first flag of the United States of America, are really trying to erase America itself. They are succeeding, frankly, beyond the wildest dreams and most fevered nightmares of the Founding Fathers, who understood the fragility of their magnificent creation. Anti-Americanism has taken deep root in America, and we must, no matter the cost, turn the tide against it.
The easiest and best first step?
Fly the Betsy Ross flag. Fly it on your front porch. Fly it at your local school. Fly it over the White House lawn, if you happen to be the president.
Fly it everywhere liberals might see it, so they will know that America is here to stay!