Opinion: In defense of the Betsy Ross flag
Patriot Week renews America’s spirit by deepening the appreciation of the First Principles, Founding Fathers and other Patriots, vital documents and speeches, and flags that make America the greatest nation in world history. From September 11 (anniversary of the terrorist attacks) to September 17 (anniversary of the signing of the Constitution), a different flag is commemorated each day. Each flag is an emblem of freedom and represents one of the founding First Principles derived from our Declaration of Independence: the rule of law, the Social Compact, equality (racial), equality (gender), unalienable rights, limited government, and the right to alter or abolish an oppressive government (revolution). Those flags include, among others, the long forgotten suffragette banner that was boldly marched in parades and marked protests; the Union standard that flew over Fort Sumter (taken down by the Confederates and gallantly raised after the fort was retaken), and our current Old Glory.
And yes, we proudly commemorate the Betsy Ross Flag. In some quarters, that flag is shunned as a symbol of oppression.
The detractors of that flag are misinformed (most likely), shallow thinkers (possible), or subversive (probably gives them too much credit and I don’t often impute such motives). Let’s assume they are misinformed. Let the education begin:
America’s past is bloodied, bruised and blemished with unjust wars, slavery, gender oppression discrimination, and the genocide of Native Americans. But the critics should really understand world history. No nation is free from the sins of the past. Many point to Europe as a model to be followed. Really? Tell that to the hundreds of millions of victims of the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, World War I, the French Reign of Terror, the centuries old Protestant v Catholic wars, Rome, imperialism, etc. The rest of the world is no better. Entire civilizations have been wiped out by enemies. In fact, go back far enough, and every person on the planet is likely the descendent of someone who engaged in what we would consider today to be barbarism. After all, our ancestors survived.
So what does America and the Betsy Ross Flag have to offer?
Before July 2, 1776 (the day the resolution adopting independence was adopted), no major nation on the earth was a republic. That we established a form of government, in Lincoln’s words, “of the people, by the people, for the people” is more than enough to deserve enormous praise in the history books. But there is more.
No nation in history was dedicated to the proposition that governments were instituted to protect the unalienable rights of the people. In fact, that remains true today. We believe that our rights come from the Creator (or Nature and Nature’s law) - not as handouts at the whims of the rulers - and we have governments to secure those rights.
No nation embraced the idea of a limited government - establishing a limited central (federal) authority focused on national issues, while leaving to local governments (states) matters closer to home, providing both liberty and good governance.
No government wrote down their fundamental law - we have the oldest Constitution in the world. Certainly none allowed the courts to strike down laws and actions in violation of the Constitution. The denigration of the rule of law was a centerpiece of why we declared independence, and it is lynchpin of our Constitution.
No nation empowered the people through their representatives, invited them to help draft and debate the fundamental law, and required ratification of a written Constitution to embody and establish a Social Compact.
No nation had established an amendment process to fix and improve the fundamental law and ensured elections to “vote the bums out” - i.e., to alter or abolish the government.
And yes, no other nation had declared as a “self-evident truth” that all men are created equal - not a single one.
At the time, the Betsy Ross flag was the symbol of the most free nation in world history. That nation was not - and is not - perfect. It was and is bitterly flawed. But even in 1776 it was a monumental achievement. Those who fought for emancipation, women’s suffrage, and civil rights harkened to the Declaration of Independence to make America live up to its promise. Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, and Martin Luther King Jr. saw themselves as the inheritors and defenders of the Spirit of ’76.
That flag was not a symbol of oppression, but on representing the most free nation on earth - an indispensable stepping stone to the expansion of liberty on the world stage. We should celebrate, not denigrate it.
There is much more to learn. Visit www.PatriotWeek.org and join our movement.
And as for the (hopefully former) detractors, we welcome you most of all with open arms and hearts. Love of each other and remembering what unites us as Americans is the answer to brighter future.
Judge Michael Warren is an Oakland County Circuit Court Judge, former member of the State Board of Education, and co-founder of PatriotWeek. For more information, visit www.PatriotWeek.org and www.AmericasSurvivalGuide.com.