Black Lives Matter Utah opened a social media hornet’s nest when its founder, Lex Scott, recently said the American flag was a hate symbol because far-right and white supremacist groups marched with the flag or used it as a rallying symbol.
We asked our readers whether they considered the American flag a divisive symbol. More than 500 people responded to our nonscientific poll.
The responses were almost evenly split.
Fifty-two percent of those who replied said the Stars and Stripes are not divisive, while 48% said they are.
We also asked what kinds of flags readers fly, either at their homes, places of business or elsewhere. A majority of those who answered said either the American flag or a Pride flag.
Flags celebrating either the University of Utah or Brigham Young University are also displayed but mostly on game days.
A few people said they display a Black lives matter banner. Scattered among the responses were a few flags representing other countries (Canada, Finland, Russia, Brazil, Welsh), and even the Soviet battle flag.
One of our readers detailed a wicked sense of humor, telling us the Jolly Roger is the flag of choice on Pioneer Day.
One respondent uses flags to make a political statement, but not as one would expect.
“I fly the flag of any nation that is brave enough to resist domination by the U.S. empire: Bolivia, Cuba, Vietnam, Palestine and many others,” the person wrote. “I support any flag that honors the struggle of oppressed peoples against imperialism. More than any other, I see the interests of the working, oppressed and poor people of the U.S (the majority) and the world represented by a red flag — for socialism.”
The flag’s meaning
We also asked readers what the American flag means to them. The most frequent responses were “freedom” or “liberty.” But a few offered other perspectives.
“I have become increasingly hesitant to fly it because of the growing association with the far right and hate groups,” one reader wrote.
“It’s the symbol of our country, on fabric. It’s a construct,” another said. “I mostly like my country but some things have to improve, and soon.”
“I would like to take it back to mean that it belongs to everyone in this country. I would like it to represent the UNITED States of America, not the divided states that Trump and all other right-wing people seem to want it to represent.”
“It used to feel inspiring to me. However, as I have learned more about our history, it has come to represent both a lot of good and a lot of bad for me. Also, the nationalism associated with the flag is problematic.”
“The right for people like Lex Scott to make an absolute fool out of herself.”
“To me, the American flag represents the unity of the American people and the shared hope that we, as a nation, can live up to our highest ideals. At the top of that list is the proposition that ‘all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ It saddens me to see the American flag become a partisan and divisive symbol.”
“As an LDS missionary, I lived in a country which does not share our same freedoms, most notably freedom of speech as is guaranteed to us. That is what I think about when I see my flag in the front yard every day.”
“I fly the flag only on national holidays. It is a symbol of my respect for those who died for our freedoms. I fly a service-issued flag, and I much prefer the yellow fringe because the fringe is offensive to many right-wing nuts.”
“So many people in our history have sacrificed so much so ALL of us can live in an amazing country where all are free to express their view. The American flag is the EXACT symbol that represents freedom.”
“As of right now, when I see the flag, I see bigotry, hypocrisy, and oppression.”
“It represents the ideals of freedom and justice which we succeed much of the time, but far too often fail.”
“The flag represents the unity we CAN achieve if we try. Trump and lesser followers have taken the flag and given it the stain of lies, hate, and distrust. They have soiled it with the idea that they can steal freedom and they can somehow represent the greater number of us that are willing to go forward, accept our follies, make amends, and learn from our mistakes to make a better, more perfect union.”
“The flag has changed throughout the years. It represents the Constitution and the American government. Things that have never been perfect but that we as people can change to make it better. Saying the American flag is a symbol of racism and hatred will just turn people off to those ideologies, the boy who cried wolf is now the group that cried racism. Making people pick sides is how conflicts start, not understanding.”
“The American flag is a symbol of our better angels of liberty and equality but it has been usurped by far right groups in atrocious ways. It feels at times like the American flag has replaced the Confederate flag with these groups and everyone should be appalled by that.”
“Freedom, liberty, and justice for all people, regardless of race, political view, religion, etc. I can see how some may see it as divisive. But if all protesters, not just the right-wing nuts used it, it would not become divisive. The flag is only divisive if people choose to see it that way.”
“Its a symbol of democracy and enlightenment values. What makes it particularly compelling, is that it not only tells a story of our history (in all its complexity), but the direction we are headed. The flag, like every U.S. citizen, is full of potential despite some of the glaring inconsistencies and in some cases contradictions.”
“The flag means we love America and all the rights and freedoms we ALL enjoy in America. The flag is our symbol of justice and opportunity. People should acknowledge that we have greater lives and opportunities than any other place on earth. If you want to make any changes you are FREE to go through appropriate channels and make those changes.”