What a difference an election makes. The once God-fearing Republican Party has wandered into the political wilderness. They threw off the yoke of dignity and embraced vulgarity when they ignored the President's own words, "grab 'em by the pussy." The GOP also abandoned two of their defining monikers; freedom and the flag. How did they do this? They fell in love with the strong man from Russia, Vladimir Putin, and with that affection comes the abandonment of our nation's flag.
Putin is no Reagan.
Who will pick up our nation's flag and wield it like the symbol of freedom that it is? When republicans find their safe space within the masculine arms of a man who stuffs ballot boxes and bombs hospitals in Syria, who in America will stand for freedom? Will it be the Democrats? That remains to be seen.
The flag is the symbol of our republic.
Don't get me wrong, Democrats do fly the flag, without a doubt, yet the progressive left is loathe to fly Old Glory as it seems provincial to them. Perhaps they see it as a symbol of American colonialism. They flag can be seen as many things. However, look at it this way: When one carries the flag you are literally holding up our greatest symbol of equality. Don't believe it? Look at the photos from the Civil Rights Movement and you will see the flag at almost every protest.
There is no greater time to seize the flag. We are in a war on our democracy. I believe we are living in a concentrated attack on the forward progress of American women. As we approach political leadership we change the gender power balance in the United States and the world. The election was a reaction, a squeeze from the past. The tightening vise that places women as recipients of a male narrative. When women lead we create a new narrative. What is our symbol?
In wars, symbols are needed. The Women's March shows us this; pussy hats were seen for miles and reminded everyone watching that our President, the choice of the GOP, referred to women (50.8% of our population) as pussies. Mull that one over, it's about power and gender.
The flag is an image of strength and women are included. We no longer see ourselves as subsets to male hegemony. The GOP is desperately trying to rein in women's power.
The GOP in their love for pussy grabber and Putin handed a powerful symbol to us. It's ours unless you give it away.
My recent trip to Los Angeles Airport to be part of the protest against Trump's ban on Muslims is a good illustration of why I hammer this point home.
The day of the LAX protest was glorious and sunny as I drove to the Bradley International terminal at LAX. Upon arriving I was as surprised by the crowd as I was at the Women's March. Thousands jammed the entrance and the walkways, it was tightly packed and very loud. The people were happy.
The signs they held were genuinely clever "I was just doing my job." - Nazis, and patriotic "The Constitution is not an alternative fact."
It made one proud to be there, to be a citizen.
I made my way through the throngs, taking photographs, chatting with people and chanting periodically with the crowd (the surge of voices welled up and over all other sounds. It was deafening). I spied a woman trying to hoist her American flag. She was Mexican and was accompanied by a young Mexican girl I assumed to be her granddaughter. I offered to help her hold her flag and we did so until I realized we should be in front of the media cameras at the road. She agreed and we moved to the front of the protest where the police and the reporters were congregated.
It was a bold crowd of people and across the road, hanging over the parking garage ( marchers had spilled over onto the parking structure) a huge banner of a heart with the word "Immigrants" written through it was unfurled over the top floor. It was a peaceful protest and the police were gracious.
This woman and I held the flag together. After a time I knew I had to leave and head home so I turned to the people behind me and found a man, white, who was standing there just like the rest of us and I said, "Can you take a corner of this flag I have to be moving on." He didn't say anything he just shook his head, no. I said, 'Why?" He turned her away and with a slight look of arrogance said, "That's not my thing."
Not his thing. Was it not cool? Well, in the 1960s holding the flag at a Civil Rights march was definitely the thing to do. It certainly was cool enough for Martin Luther King, Jr.
Did the left abandon the flag when flags were burned in the 20th century during the Vietnam War? Perhaps so and maybe it's time to change this feeling towards the flag.
Reinvent what the flag means for us. The opportunity is there as the GOP has abandoned it.
If you can't hold the flag at a march that is being held for immigrants to come to America why would one be at the march? I should have asked the man who rejected my request that question, but instead I explained my opinion that the flag is our greatest symbol of equality and I added that if he didn't hold it then the Trump voters waving the nazi and confederate flags will.
He didn't budge at my explanation, but neither did he look me in the eye.
Then I saw a young woman, white, in back of him who was listening to me intently. I said to her "will you hold the flag." She shook her head no.
Was it radioactive?
Then, luckily, a Mexican woman from the crowd stepped up and took the corner of the flag and held it. I thanked her. So now you had two Mexican women and a young Mexican girl holding our nation's flag that two white people refused to hold.
As I walked away incredulously I spied a woman with an American flag fabric worn as a hijab. I asked her why she wore that particular design. She said with a big smile on her face, "Because I am a Muslim American and I am proud." Check that.
I walked on and saw a Indian man in fatigues who was waiting for the shuttle bus. He was holding a flag. After I asked him why he brought the flag to the march he didn't say a word, but opened his flag to show me a poster he had made that was fastened inside the flag. Simply written in black marker on white poster board were the words of the military oath. This was my favorite part, "I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic..."
Check that, too.
It wouldn't be fair to say I saw no others carrying flags, I did. Approximately five or six flags held proudly by Americans. I saw several small flags held by children and some adults.
This protest was estimated to have been approximately 7,500 protestors, I should have seen many more flags.
This is an authoritarian time for America. We have great danger threatening our institutions; schools, voting rights, courts, and more. The flag is a unifying symbol.
We won't beat this wrecking team in the executive branch, by disparaging our national symbol of justice and freedom. Make it your own and carry it.
- Jennifer Hall Lee
Photographs by Jennifer Hall Lee