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The American Flag: More Than Just a Piece of Cloth

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The American Flag is the most widespread symbol Americans have. It took a disaster to make me realize how important it is. I would always wave the flag in a parade or on the Fourth of July, but I never really stopped to think about what I was doing. The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 are what changed my view. They caused me to reflect about our country and the value of saying, “I am an American.” After September 11th, there was an explosion of patriotism. Flags were bought and hung everywhere out of pride. The flag represents our country and all of the rights and privileges that we have in the United States, hanging it gave us the strength to move on. People see the flag everyday, yet how many of them actually stop and think about what the flag really represents? People do not realize that just last year Congress voted against a constitutional amendment that would protect the American flag from desecration. Many people may not consider this a very important issue, but it has become very controversial. It would be unconstitutional for the United States to have a federal law protecting the American flag, even though it is a respected symbol of America.

The burst of patriotism caused by the September 11th attacks was sudden. No one knew what to do afterwards, so they turned to the symbol of our country and waved it saying, “We are still strong and standing.” This reaction cannot be taught or put into legal terms. The great thing about America is that we have the right to display the flag or not to display it; neither one is forced upon us. The American Flag does not need protection. The protection of the flag would violate part of our First Amendment rights. As shown on September 11th, Americans are strong and proud of the United States. They did not burn the flag on this day; they were proud of our country and proud to be an American. It is times when we disagree with the legislature that some citizens feel burning the flag will make people take a second look. That is what the First Amendment is all about, protecting the rights of the popular, as equally as those of the unpopular.

The American Flag portrays our country’s heritage. It is the one universal symbol that bonds the entire country. “It stands for the land and the people, the government, and the nation’s ideals. It embodies the heroism of Americans both famous and anonymous, our identity as a people, our dreads of the future” (Sedeen). The American flag is a picture behind an idea. “Every wave of the flag is a pulse of history, a commemoration of multitudes of real, tangible, concrete events all melded into a single, grand, abstract concept: America” (Sedeen). The American Flag has a special meaning for the people who live in our country. It can make us feel joyful or gloomy; it can bring us to bravery or submission simply by when and how it is used (Krythe 1). It is more than just a brightly colored piece of cloth; it is a symbol that stands for an idea, a cause and a purpose.

The flag was born on June 14, 1777 when Congress said, “The flag of the thirteen United States will be thirteen stripes, alternately red and white, that the Union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation” (Krythe 2). George Washington has been credited with explaining the symbolism of the flag. He showed us the significance of what is actually on the flag rather than just the laws and values behind it. “We take the stars from heaven, the red from our mother country, separating it by white stripes, thus showing that we have separated from her, and the white stripes shall go down to posterity, representing liberty” (Krythe 3). From the beginning, the flag has been an important symbol. People look up to it in awe of the remarkable country it represents. This flag will not be the last to be born. It will go through a number of changes until it reaches our current flag of America.

Congress decided that they would need to pass a law to inform the citizens of what would happen to the flag when a new state was added. Congress passed the law and it explained when a new state was added, the flag would have a new star and a new strip for that state (Krythe 4). The American flag, with fifteen stars and stripes, served as our national symbol for twenty-three years. It was at this time that Congress decided the flag would get too large to display if they added a stripe for each new state. So on April 4, 1818, Congress approved the Flag of the United States to be “thirteen horizontal stripes, alternate red and white: that the union be twenty stars, white in a blue field.” In addition, one star is to be added for each state admitted to the United States on the next Fourth of July (Krythe 5). The last star was put on the flag when Hawaii was admitted in 1960 (Krythe 6). The flag now consists of fifty stars and thirteen stripes. This

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