The American Flag, 1777-1924: Cultural Shifts from Creation to Codification

The American Flag, 1777-1924: Cultural Shifts from Creation to Codification

The American Flag, 1777-1924: Cultural Shifts from Creation to Codification

The American Flag, 1777-1924: Cultural Shifts from Creation to Codification

Excerpt

As the last decade of the twentieth century begins, it is evident that American society will continue to debate and redefine the acceptable boundaries for use and respect of the national banner. Those boundaries have received much media attention in recent years.

Controversy over the Pledge of Allegiance, alleged flag burning, and the use of the American flag in campaigning emerged as significant elements in the Bush-Dukakis race for the presidency. On 21 June 1989 (one week after Flag Day) the Supreme Court ruled Gregory Lee Johnson exercised freedom of speech when he torched the flag of the United States outside the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas. This ruling provoked an emotional response, with many, including the president, calling for a constitutional amendment to protect and honor the flag.

Congress put off the amendment argument by enacting new federal legislation against flag desecration. Nevertheless, it is probable that eventually this new legislation will be challenged in the courts, and through the process of appeals the highest court in the land will take up the question again. The 1990s may prove to be a decade in which not only the perimeters of flag usage but of first amendment rights are legally readjusted.

However our personal opinions might vary in the debate on flag desecration, it behooves all interested in the political and cultural history of the United States to understand the powerful and evolving relationship between the symbol of the American flag and the development of the nation. Loving the flag is a patriot's prerogative. Comprehending the historical, sociological, and cultural reasons why people behave in such a fashion is a scholar's challenge. Understanding the difference between the two is an intellectual liberation. May the following study provide you such liberation, allowing you the opportunity to question and/ or strengthen your own beliefs as you interpret the "text" of the flag of the United States, allowing you to embark on a philosophical journey of cultural and crosscultural inquiry.

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