TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Friday, July 4, 2008

I Pledge Allegiance to the Flag...

According to legend, Betsy Ross made the first American flag.
Here, she shows it to George Washington and others.

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,
and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Today is Independence Day here in the United States. That means flags waving, picnics, firecrackers and a day off for most of us. For my dogs, it means several days of fear and trembling as each firecracker makes them jump through the roof.

Flag of 1818. Felted wool made from recycled sweaters; antique buttons. 1996.
by Morna Crites-Moore

The pledge of allegiance to the flag are words that all Americans have drilled into them as children or which must be stated on becoming a citizen. I learned them as a child growing up in Brazil, along with the American, Canadian and Brazilian national anthems. The flag, pledge and anthem are all historical symbols of this country, reminding us of a cultural identity, heritage and instilling a sense of nation on a multi-cultural and diverse population. This identity comes as a double-edged sword for many of us, especially when the flag waves over political decisions we may not agree with. The pledge itself has often been dissected, word for word and questioned in what exactly it means to have allegiance, to what the republic stands for, if God actually exists and whether liberty and justice do truly exist for all.

Dream-folk Art Flag by Pegskitchenstudio

As I grew older, I found myself distrusting both the flag and the pledge. I didn't want to be "American", I wanted to be a world citizen. I learned about covert CIA operations in Latin America, about multinational interests in the third world, and on and on. But, I could feel pride in all the NGO's and assistance the United States has also given to third world countries, for all the Nobel prizes won, for artists who have continually led the world in expanding ideas of free speech and cultural analysis, and for all the other good things that have been born on this soil.

Crime Scene by Pam Glew

I cannot disassociate myself from my heritage- I am American. But, I don't own an American flag. I own three Brazilian ones. Hmmm.... Is Brazil that much better than the US that I can wave its flag and not the American one? No, I think it is because I am not Brazilian that I can long for it. As an American, I am burdened with the responsibility of citizenry. I see all that we are lacking, all our potential, how far we have to go to truly have liberty and justice for all and the vision is overwhelming.

in memory of the fallen by eddyizm

I have several friends who have been so disenchanted by the Bush years that they are either moving to Canada or another country or they ardently wish they could. I don't feel that way. I am glad to be here in this time and in this place. Not only am I staying, but I moved from North to South, which was a big shocker to many of my Northern friends. "The South is so racist! They're all Republicans down there!" And, on and on. Well, I am pleased to report that I love the South. I have been welcomed and feel quite at home here. Sure, maybe I'm a little bit "different" (I've learned that down here this means "weird"), but I think that if we truly believe in world citizenry, this begins in our own back yards.

Military Blog by Rich Kelly

The American flag has a become a symbol of power, and to many people of other countries, a symbol of oppression and domination. We have made political decisions that have cost a terrible price in terms of loss of life and livelihoods to millions of people. They are angry and I believe, justly so. But, the American flag is also a symbol of freedom, democracy, and opportunity. I have been in a couple of situations overseas when the sight of the American flag flying at an embassy's entrance was a sight for sore eyes. There is such a huge sense of relief, of home, when you see that flag and you are an American citizen in distress on foreign soil. An American life might not be worth much here on its own soil, but outside of the borders, a citizen knows his or her own value.

United America by Jessica Tennill

So, I have come to accept my identity and responsibility as an American. I do my best to be a good citizen. But, I still distrust the notion of patriotism. I have several friends from Germany. They definitely share a common German cultural identity, but none of them know their national anthem or pledge of allegiance. World War II made Germans very wary of any national emotions that would lead to blind patriotism. I prefer this approach as well. Statements like "Love it or Leave it!" do nothing to build solid ground, to rationally look at our social problems and see how we can fix them, to recognize that we are now a diverse nation with a complex agenda. Barack Obama gave a speech about "One Nation under God" that sought to address some of these complexities. It is printed in full on Sojourners website. It gives me hope to know that there are leaders, like him, who honor the flag and the pledge and who might help soothe the wounds we have inflicted in other countries.

This giant American Flag is made of ironed-together plastic grocery bags.
It was made by LeBrie Rich and Bill Will for an installation called "New Economy" in 2007.
In the installation the flag was inflatable controlled by a coin-op mechanism connected to a squirrel cage fan hidden in a pedestal.
Viewers put in a quarter and the flag inflated and lifted off the wall for about 20 seconds.

I thought it would be interesting to take a look at flag art on Etsy to illustrate this post. There were tons of kitschy little things, but also some interesting pieces. All of the artists portrayed here have stores on Etsy and I encourage you to check them out. Click on the photos and it will take you to their listings. I, of course, am drawn more to political art, but there are also pillows, hats, comforters, goose clothing, earrings, pendants, bags and who knows what else on Etsy that you can search for using the key words, "American Flag". Enjoy your celebration!


  1. Hi, Rachel. Thanks for the compliment of choosing to include my felted wool flag on today's post. Coincidentally, I chose to show the same flag on my July 4th post as well; the only difference being that I showed a detail, instead of the whole thing. :)

  2. another great post. i am official a 'fan' now. i may never write another thing... i will just come here and have you echo my thoughts :)

    rachel (the other one)


“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like it's heaven on earth.”

“Whatever you say, say it with conviction.”

(Both by the master, Mark Twain)

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