Flag Day Should Bring America Together
Hong Kong protesters wave the red, white and blue for a reason.
Flag Day—June 14—tends to be overshadowed by more famous civic celebrations like Independence Day, Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Yet the Stars and Stripes is one of the most powerful symbols on the planet, and now is the perfect time to ask why freedom fighters across the world look to it for inspiration.
The people of Hong Kong provide the answer. In recent years, they’ve faced an unprecedented assault on their liberties. Last spring, Communist China’s puppets in the Hong Kong Legislative Council tried to pass a bill that would have allowed Hong Kongers accused of wrongdoing to be extradited to the Chinese mainland, where they would face sham trials, torture or worse. This attack on Hong Kong’s autonomy sparked months of protests by millions of people. Nearly every time they gathered, one could see the Stars and Stripes held aloft by brave men and women.
Even as faraway people place their hope in the red, white and blue, a growing number of Americans don’t. For them it has come to symbolize the country’s real shortcomings. Yet far from representing a farce that we should abandon or demean, the flag stands for an ideal toward which we can strive.
The history of this holiday is instructive. Flag Day was proclaimed in 1916 as the culmination of a decadeslong effort to heal the wounds of the Civil War. The goal was to unite the nation under a single banner, so that together it could move closer to fulfilling its promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The Stars and Stripes can be that symbol once again. As in decades past, the flag can bring Americans together to strengthen democracy, ensure freedom and promote equal justice for all. If those who labor under oppression around the world can look to the flag for inspiration, so can we Americans.
At the time of publishing, Marion Smith was executive director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.
Originally published in The Wall Street Journal.