Whether Nike made the right marketing decision by pulling its “Betsy Ross Flag” sneakers off the shelf is a question best answered by branding specialists.
To be honest, unless they were magic sneaks that somehow made me run faster and jump higher, I wouldn’t care if they had my pic on the heels. I still wouldn’t be a buyer. But Nike sells sneaks, and if they decide to bow to pop outrage, that’s their right.
But when Ben Jacobs twitted that Beto agreed that the flag — yes, the Betsy Ross version and not the 50 stars flavor — was hurtful, what stood out wasn’t the call so much as the characterization.
Beto on the Nike/Betsy Ross flag controversy: “I think its really important to take into account the impression that kind of symbol would have for many of our fellow Americans, respect the decision Nike made and grateful for the conversation [that it is provoking]
— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) July 3, 2019
“That kind of symbol”? That was our American flag, Mr. Presidential Nominee Wannabe. Because it was likely that I was completely unaware, I was helpfully informed upon raising this detail that it had been “co-opted” by alt-right bigots.
So a handful of losers decided they were going to seize the Betsy Ross flag for themselves, and that turned our flag into theirs? They took frogs, the “OK” hand signal, the three-point shot signal and now, our flag?
Either these are the most powerful people in America, seizing our icons and overwhelming American will by their sheer force of holding it, or this is nuts. Who cares whether the Naxos want to pretend the Betsy Ross flag is theirs? Who cares what they want. Who is giving them the power to dictate to America, to Beto (and Julian Castro, as well), to Nike, to me, what my flag stands for?
I get it. Symbols have become bigger and more important than substance, bringing brave warriors to their knees, tears flowing uncontrollably at their mere sight, bodies wracked in pain just knowing they exist. The confederate battle flag is no different than the Nazi flag. A law professor writes of his inner strength and boldness when confronted with a student wearing a MAGA hat:
…an undeniable symbol of white supremacy and hatred toward certain nonwhite groups.
…his shiny red MAGA hat was like a siren spewing derogatory racial obscenities at me…
The “like” does a lot of work here, since hats don’t actually spew, and about half a nation, give or take, elected the guy who made MAGA his motto. But it’s a symbol. It’s “that kind of symbol,” and at least it’s not a symbol that belonged to all of us before it was co-opted.
The Betsy Ross flag, however, isn’t some random symbol. It was our flag. It was our history and our heritage. It was American. It still is. Colin Kaepernick may be willing to let it go, to give it away to the neo-fascists as David Frum calls them, because he lacks the imagination to call them Naxos, but he no more dictates what becomes of a nation’s flag than the Naxos do. That is, unless you let them.
I’m not the most patriotic guy around, though I stand, because I choose to stand, when the national anthem is played. I’ve never hesitated in questioning this government’s actions when I think them wrong, or any office holder of any party. My preference would be to make America the Beautiful our anthem rather than the Star Spangled Banner, although I admit that my eyes tear just a bit when I hear the words, “gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.”
As many bad and wrong things that happened on these shores, and as many bad and wrong things that still happen, I am proud and fortunate to be an American. You can’t have my flag, any of them. Not the right. Not the left. God bless America, and happy Fourth of July.