Flag Day – June 14

What kind of country does our flag represent?  Commentary by Phyllis Stenerson published in Uptown Neighborhood News, June 2010, Minneapolis, MN

It’s Flag Day in the United States commemorating the day in 1777 when the Continental Congress approved an official flag for a new nation. Old Glory is probably the most recognizable, powerful and revered symbol of the United States. I think we all pretty much agree on that.

The question of what kind of a country Old Glory represents, however, is causing unprecedented, deep divisiveness. Dialogue and dissent are essential to a well functioning democracy. Right wing protests that are edging toward violence, shouting that drowns out civil discourse and misrepresentation of facts and history are grievously damaging our nation. We need to hear more progressive voices.

The seriousness of our times cannot be overstated! The man-made environmental disaster in the Gulf is the latest, gruesomely visible challenge. Our crisis of democracy is also a man-made problem heading toward disaster unless we act. If this doesn’t get our attention, what will?

It’s taken me awhile to come to terms with how extremist the formerly honorable Republican Party has become and how they are damaging America – and have the nerve to take a strong stand. I am disappointed by the Democrats who have failed to articulate and fight hard enough for our cherished values of justice and opportunity for all. Congress is basically dysfunctional and overly compliant to the big money interests that fund Members’ campaigns. The Republicans need to take responsibility for eight years of creating problems and be part of the solution instead of continually attacking Obama for not fixing everything in just over one year.

President Obama’s job is tough beyond comprehension and his actions often baffling but I still believe in his intellect, vision and potential to be a great president. I need for him to prove to me his commitment to progressive values. Obama needs to toughen up and fight back – and again inspire the American people to work for a better America for all.

We progressives need to remember and revive the passion of the campaign and the thrill of the inauguration. We need to overcome our exhaustion and creeping cynicism and again work to advance Obama’s vision for America.