Let’s blame the flag

Since the beginning of the tumultuous 20th century, this rock we call home has experienced two separate world wars. The effects of these wars are still spreading and have affected every corner of this globe in some way. Something about the 20th century made it the tipping point for not only one, but two global wars in an unprecedented scale of militia combats. I believe everything can be blamed on flags, migration and saying the Pledge of Allegiance.

Let me give you a very brief and extremely accurate background on the history of the 19th century to give context to my statement. In the 19th century, people looked around, saw the same noisy neighbors they had been dealing with for millennia, and decided to pack up their bags and head off to somewhere with less obnoxious fellow inhabitants. Then at some point, their kids got tired of listening to the same ten songs on their dad’s favorite CD from the band he was in back in college (which really was not as good as their dad obstinately believed it to be), the grandma decided if they did not finally get out of this car she was going to fake cardiac arrest because she was so sick of her daughter in laws endless hinted questions about when she would move out, and the father refused to look at the map or ask for directions so they all ended up in places very different and far from where they had started. And then there were a bunch of people milling around who were grumpy and rumpled from at least six solid hours jammed in a car together with the various family heirlooms consisting of obnoxiously huge furniture that they just had to bring (sometimes at the expense of a pet fish or two). So some bright person who must have been slightly less grumpy than everyone else whipped out some blankets and some food and everyone sat around together and felt a little more human because food does that to you. And then they decided to talk about what they should call themselves as a group of people and if they should have uniforms in their schools that are cute or extremely ugly and if the speed limit in residential areas should be 10 or 15 miles per hour. With all this increased migration, obviously there was heightened global contact as people bumped into other people that looked and acted differently from them. Sometimes people were friendly and said hi to these new neighbors and brought over their classic tuna casserole dish. But unfortunately, sometimes people closed their shades and refused to let their kids play in the street with the other kids because of an age-old human tradition to fear what makes us different, because what makes us different makes a person less sure of their own identity and self-worth, and therefore, they are staring into the frightening void of the unknown when they are staring at the darker skinned kids playing outside their house. Like never before was the power of an imagined community established, especially in every now mandatory school (perfect places to pump out potential model citizens) as newfound nations struggled to find their identities.

So why do I dislike migration, flags, and pledges of allegiance? Because from this struggle for identity in a new place surrounded by strange people, humanity in general did a really dumb thing. They decided to start defining themselves as what other people were not. The concept of “othering” reared its horrendous head and rampaged across the soil of our earth. Can I blame people for their strong nativist reactions, their desperate flailing in creating the concept of race in order to feel safe and secure in their identities? When I walk into a room full of strangers, I immediately walk toward people who I feel I identify most with, whether that means by perceived gender, race or otherwise. This is simply a thing all humans do out of a need to not feel isolated and alone, for we are very social creatures.

Now let me tie this all together: Nationalism sparked after people decided to move about, and from there, people needed ways to define their new homes, so they created concepts like nations and race and created national symbols like the flag to help unify their citizens. But unfortunately, they also started identifying themselves by othering the nations around them. And the result of fearing the differences of the people surrounding you instead of trying to understand them was a world war. Or maybe even two. And why does this matter now? The first world war ended in 1918, and the second one barely has any surviving veterans since its conclusion in 1945, so maybe this is all a terrible learned lesson that we had to learn