Flag Day is celebrated every year on June 14, the day when — in 1777 — the Stars and Stripes became the official banner of our nation.
It’s mind-boggling to think about how much has changed in this country since 1777. It’s hard to imagine a day when the flag that we now see everywhere was brand-new, and when Americans looked upon it with fresh eyes.
On the other hand, many of us can remember a day when that flag did look different — when there were only 48 stars, for instance. I was only a year old when Alaska and Hawaii joined the union, so I don’t actually remember those last two stars being added, but it did happen in my lifetime.
Even in one person’s lifetime, big change is possible.
In recent years, it’s become commonplace to refer to a state that’s predominantly conservative as a “red state,” and one that’s predominantly liberal as a “blue state.” The concept of breaking the country down into red and blue started as a convenient way to present election results on television. But more recently, it’s almost become the backbone of our country’s political discourse.
The colors of our flag are red, white and blue. When our founders presented this flag on June 14, 1777, they never thought about taking those colors apart. They wanted a symbol under which we could be “indivisible” — unified as a nation.
Throughout my own political career, I’ve personally resisted — and at times defied — these kinds of labels. When I think about a change I’d really like to see happen, and help bring about, during the remainder of my lifetime, it might be to erase the labels that have divided us and allowed us to dismiss each other.
As soon as we put someone into a category — liberal or conservative, blue or red — we assume we know them. We believe we know what they’re going to say before they say it. At that point, we begin to think we don’t really need to listen to them anymore. In our eyes, they become irrelevant.
Flag Day is the day when we’re called upon to contemplate our flag and to think about the fact that America was once a novel concept: something that needed a “logo.” That logo that our Founding Fathers presented was a banner that wasn’t just red, and wasn’t just blue. It was both, with just enough “white space” to bring them together.
It’s a fitting image for our nation, and one we should still aspire to.
Phil Scott is lieutenant governor of Vermont.MORE IN Commentary
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