I agree entirely with the outstanding opinion piece written by Diane W. Mayfield regarding the appropriation by the right of our national flag. ("I am a patriot," Jan. 28.) For me, exhibitionist display of the flag became a symbol of political opinion that I did not share during the Vietnam War. We were told that we should "support our country, right or wrong" and that we should leave if we did not support the pursuit of an imperialistic war essentially begun by Democrats John F. Kennedy and LBJ and then fanatically pursued by Republican Richard Nixon. In fact, I did leave the country to do research on my doctoral dissertation in Austria. We were literally on the boat during the Chicago riots surrounding the Democratic National Convention of 1968, and our disillusionment fed a semi-serious contemplation of not returning. Despite being very comfortable with the language and culture of our host country, my wife and I came to realize that despite our revulsion with our country's foreign policy, we were in fact Americans who loved our country. We did not then, nor do we now, voice the frequently expressed platitude that the U.S. is the "best country in the world." Rather, as Americans, we treasure it as the best country for us.
Ms. Mayfield recalls that a former German exchange student commented to her that a pledge to the flag like one required in U.S. schools would be regarded as a "second coming of Hitler" if conducted Germany. A German friend of mine, a school principal and history professor, reacted similarly when he visited us here. Noting the ubiquitous display of the flag, he said he was chillingly reminded of his youth in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia.
Recently, I was likewise chilled when I saw a young man walking on Pismo Beach carrying a large American flag. It was the week after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. Now, this young man may not have had the intent of saluting the sedition of those thousands of flag-wavers. I suspect however that he did, because of what Ms. Mayfield accurately describes as the flag being "the exclusive symbol of the far right."
I, too, want my flag back as a symbol of the entire country.
San Luis Obispo