WHY DOES THE AMERICAN
FLAG LOOK LIKE THIS?
George Washington hoisted the first American flag above the Continental Army’s base at Prospect Hill in January 1776. Since then the flag has undergone many iterations, but it is generally agreed that the red represents resilience and valor, the white represents purity and innocence, the blue represents vigilance, perseverance, and justice, and the stars represent the states of the union.
As you can see, our flag is different.
We believe in the American idea that all men and women are equal before the law and enjoy rights that are intrinsic and inalienable. We also believe, along with Thomas Jefferson, that because men and women are imperfect, and their wisdom is limited and fleeting, that this idea must be renewed periodically in order to remain vital.
We have revived our flag accordingly.
Red still represents resilience and valor.
Blue still represents vigilance, perseverance, and justice.
The stars, however, are fifty-one. Not for Puerto Rico, the most common reason to show a flag with fifty-one stars, but to help us stay mindful of the future. We add an extra star to our flag to remind ourselves of the unfinished nature of the American experiment.
There is no white on our flag. America has never been pure nor innocent. We have done terrible things to native peoples and foreign nationals across multiple continents for hundreds of years.
Purity is the byword of fanatics. Innocence the breeding ground for cynicism and tyranny. We would not have a flag that symbolizes these things. No human community has ever been pure, no human community innocent. America can atone for its past by committing to principles that transcend politics and territory.
Each white stripe on our flag has been transformed to represent the terrestrial nature of our project. The light blue and the green at the top and bottom represent the earth, out of which we are born and to which we will return.
The varieties of brown between, from light to dark, recall the varieties of people who call America home, who dream of calling America their home, and who have fought, died, and yearned to create their own version of “America.”