The Flags of June

June is a month commemorations and cloth, and a walk-through downtown Laramie is a stroll through the dynamic tapestries of our time. Of course, one can find an American flag properly flying in the Laramie breeze, but what interests me is the proliferation of different cloth statements. The downtown Laramie flag scene is reflection of changes in cultural identity, ideals, and historical memory.

One business proudly flies an upside-down United States flag. I first noticed it after reading the  reporting of such a  flag having been flown at the home of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Alito. Many businesses have rainbow flags displayed year-round, while some display the flag during Pride Month. Looking at the bumper stickers, t-shirts, and ballcaps of downtown patrons, one often sees a variation to Old Glory in which the red, white, and blue are replaced with monochromatic black and white. Often these black and white flags are tattered.

Flag Day commemorates the 1777 adoption of the Stars and Stripes as the flag of the United States. The national day of recognition for Old Glory was first enacted in 1949. Wilber D. Nesbit penned A Song for Flag Day:

“Your Flag and my Flag!

And how it flies today

In your land and my land

And half a world away.

Rose-r and blood-red

The stripes forever gleam

Snow-white and soul-white

The good forefather’s dream

Sky-blue and true-blue with stars to gleam alright—

The glorious guidon of the day; a shelter through the night.”

Juneteenth commemorates the delivery on June 19, 1865, to Galveston, Texas, a message that all slaves are free. “This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor” read the order. A flag for Juneteenth was first displayed in 1997. The upper half of the flag is blue, and the lower half red, and the colors are divided by a horizontal arch. In the middle of the flag is a white star (a wink to the Lone Star State) surrounded by a larger bursting star.

Pride Month commemorates the Stonewall Uprising in 1969. It also celebrates the contributions, struggles and joy of the LGBTQ+ community. The Pride flag design dates to 1978. Its original colors represent sex, life, healing, sunlight, nature, art, serenity, and spirit.

The cloths of these commemorations are displays of different historical narratives and memories. They symbolize the aspirations (or defiance) of ideals and values.

It feels that the variety of flags, the non-traditional displays, the reduction of color to simple black and white (or conversely, a rainbow of colors) are markers of a growing tribalism. The flags of June are a tapestry of the things that unite and divide us.

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