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bob_'s avatar

What does the American flag symbolize?

Asked by bob_ (19684points) April 14th, 2010

Inspired by the discussion in this question.

Is it an imperialist symbol? Or a symbol of freedom? One of the arguments in that thread is that the American flag covers a wider set of ideas than just Manifest Destiny. Does it? And if so, do those (positive) ideas have a greater weight than the negatives? What are your thoughts?

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23 Answers

beautifulbobby193's avatar

The U S of A and it’s people.

DarkScribe's avatar

To whom? There are an infinite number of responses to that question. The demographics concerned cover race, nationality, gender and age.

wonderingwhy's avatar

I suppose it depends entirely where you’re viewing it from. For me, I’d have to say unity and a fading dream.

bob_'s avatar

@DarkScribe To you.

See the details where it says “what are your thoughts?”?

silverfly's avatar

Whatever it symbolizes… flags, borders, and division of the human race is destroying our species. We need to work together and respect differences rather than focus on them.

Qingu's avatar

“America” is really too vast of a thing for it to have any specific symbolism.

It’s a country that was the first to bring Greek/enlightenment ideals of democracy and freedom to the modern political sphere.

It’s a country that institutionalized slavery and racism and was among the last in the civilized world to outlaw it.

It’s a country where inventions like railroads, automobiles, and computers took off.

It’s a country that basically committed genocide against its native inhabitants.

America helped defeat Nazism. It also murdered 3 million people for no reason whatsoever in Vietnam.

Half of Americans support universal human rights and renounce unnecessary violence. The other half believes America can invade any country it wants because we’re blessed by Yahweh and support torturing people.

I would say that trying to symbolize the entirety of America with a flag is probably a pointless endeavor to begin with.

ucme's avatar

I’m English & to me it means the yanks have won yet another bloody gold medal at the Olympics.
Damn your eyes.

DarkScribe's avatar

@bob_ DarkScribe To you.

My first thought was “Who are we talking about here, an American, an Arab, a mother who has had her family killed by a missile, an Obama supporter, an Obama hater”?

As you seem to be asking how I respond to the sight of the American flag rather than what I think it symbolises, I will say with sadness. Something that was once looked up to by almost all nations and races, is now in tatters, despised by many, mistrusted by even more, no longer respected.

The way the world reacted when Kennedy was shot was an indication of how America was regarded. People took the loss personally – as though he was their president. They shed tears, they were shocked, they truly mourned. Those times have gone, America has lost its shine, it is no longer admired or emulated. It will take an enormous amount of effort to get that sort of trust and respect back. Obama might have restored some respect – but there is a long road ahead for those who follow him.

gemiwing's avatar

For me, the flag symbolizes fifty states, red and white stripes standing in for the battle between purity and bloodshed- the line we tend to walk in this nation.

JLeslie's avatar

For me the flag represents the united 50 states as @gemiwing stated. When I think of our country I think about the fact that we are a country of immigrants (for the most part) and the amazing gift America is, especially at the time of its’ creation – inspired. To provide freedom of religion, and the opportunity for anyone to succeed regardless of their ancestory, religion or race (at least that is what we are supposed to be in my mind).

bobloblaw's avatar

To me as an American, it symbolizes what the Founding Fathers hoped to create: a government of the people, for the people and by the people. It’s like the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence (of the three, to me, the flag is least important). Holy relics of a nation’s founding that serve as both reminders and guides of the general philosophical foundation of the United States.

Edit: Completely forgot about your follow up questions. To me, there really isn’t anything bad about what the flag represents to me. Granted, I’m not saying that other people don’t see the flag as something beyond what I see it as. I’d say the flag represents an ideal that the American zeitgeist tries to accomplish. Sometimes it results in horrible acts, other times it doesn’t. I wouldn’t say that the good connotations outweighs the bad. I’d say that it is what it is: America is a great and powerful, but deeply flawed, nation.

RedPowerLady's avatar

I struggle with this question to be honest. First of all I am happy to live in America with it’s freedoms and relative lack of struggle. I also do respect those that fight for our country. But at the same time I cannot ignore the negativity it symbolizes. You mention Manifest Destiny well Manifest Destiny came at the blooshed of my people. I know, I know so many people say “move on”. But that won’t happen until the bloodshed is recognized and oppression stops. So yes when I see the flag I also think of people claiming this land to be theirs. And quite simply it never was.

jackm's avatar

I think this video sums it up very nicely.

JLeslie's avatar

@RedPowerLady That makes perfect sense to me. I can understand why the flag has mixed emotion for you.

Mikelbf2000's avatar

It’s the flag to my country, Every country has a flag. To me the American flag symbolizes America. What does the German flag symbolize? Or the British Flag? Or the Italian Flag? Their countries.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

The stripes represent the original 13 colonies, and the stars represent the 50 individual states.
Any other emotional attachments are being made by the individual.

bob_'s avatar

@Captain_Fantasy Do you make any emotional attachments?

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

If I were in a forgein nation and needed to get to my embassy quickly, I’d probably form an emotion or two regarding that flag.

Gruz06's avatar

Flags are typically symbolic representations of their countries and their people. The colors have debated for a while, but no legal definition has ever been given. To me, it is a piece of art. It may appear to be a “Luncheon on the Boating Party” but the tiniest details can mean a lot more. There is something deep behind the surface of the flag, and it’s different to everybody. That’s the beauty of it.

mattbrowne's avatar

Freedom and pluralism with a strong focus on individualism.

amberrae's avatar

50 stars for 50 states, 13 stripes for the 13 original colonies… and of course its supposed to symbolize freedom…

Jude's avatar

lol, who is bumping bob up?

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