The flag on fire

In Tollefson Plaza at the end of the May Day march a contingent of socialist liberals gathered a crowd to watch some kind of event they had prepared. The socialist liberals pulled out an American flag with words like “imperialism,” “racism,” “Neo-Nazis” etc. written on it. Their group pontificated for a while about the importance of national perseverance, and then bathed Old Glory in soapy water, showing us that the evil words had disappeared. They told the crowd of onlookers that we must “take our country back” — whatever that means in this context.

Meanwhile, an anarchist contingent watched and waited. When the liberals were all done washing the flag, someone pulled out an American flag and doused it in kerosene. Another read a prepared statement about why these concepts (imperialism, borders, social control, etc.) were all inherent in the state, and why these concepts could not be merely washed off the flag. The spineless liberals sat behind the anarchists with a very confused look in their eye — some might say boils started to appear on their heads. And just when someone put the flame to the flag, one of the socialist liberals shot up from where he was sitting. His starry-eyed confusion turned to Stalinistic paternalism in the blink of an eye. He ripped the flag from the anarchists’ hands and threw the flag into a bucket of water, shouting, “No! No! No! No! This is wrong!” (The anarchists were responsible to enough to have a bucket of water at hand.)

This song from the WTO-era anarchists summarizes the sentiments pretty well. As I listen to the words of this song, I think to myself how amazing it is that we still have to deal with the same shit.

Against Me, Baby I’m an Anarchist


Thanks to the liberals, the flag was completely soaked and would not light on fire. This sparked a passionate debate about why anyone was there in the first place, what they were celebrating, and why they believed the things they believe. The anarchists ended up tearing and shredding the flag into pieces. This debate went on for some time, until someone started to chant “anti-capitalista.” The chant grew louder and louder, so loud that even the liberals started chanting it too. The liberal who put the flag in the water threw his fist in the air.

Then the police showed up and said something about how flag-burning was “not allowed.” More than anything, if the police would have interfered with the flag-burning it might have united everyone there against the police. In fact — it is legal to burn the flag. But because the police told the crowd otherwise, it only shows the extent to which hypocrisy exists all around us.

ANALYSIS:

The anarchists made the point that no flags are sacred.

At one point someone proposed burning one of the anarchist flags. This would show how insignificant the flag, and the identity, actually is. The black flag represents the absence of a flag — a rejection of any form of political representation. The flag is only used as a rallying point.

What is important to note is that the anarchists at the march allowed the liberals to wash the American flag and do their thing. On the other hand, the liberals interfered and did not let anyone else differentiate themselves by burning the American flag.

To the person whom the flag belonged, burning this particular flag was personally symbolic, since it was previously owned by a racist relative who was involved with some neo-fascist group.

From my perspective, and probably from people’s perspective on the street, this scuffle basically looked like the older contingent versus the younger contingent. It’s too bad it had to unfold in a way that looked like ‘the young’ vs. ‘the old’. But the older generation has shown itself to be relatively non-effective. I am not interested in shrouding my box of ideas in any sort of patriotic way. The socialist liberals are completely defective as anti-capitalists and show their true authoritarian natures over issues such as this. Not to mention, May Day started in 1886 by anarchists who fought violently for the 8-hour work day. That struggle was not won by patriotism or pacifism.

I think that young people today are much more creative and clever, and more people from our generation see through the banality of patriotism. Many of the “sacred” things to older generations have lost their meaning with ours, and this is a good thing. We discover the pleasures of new ideas and new worlds through destroying the old.

Thanks to enjoyable comrades, as always, for a day of enthusiasm.