I used to really like flags, when I was a kid. I was fascinated with them - the colors and designs and the countries and cultures they represented. I had a little collection. US flag, Yugoslav flag, and other flags from around the world. We had a cool topographic globe, and I'd find the country my new flag was from, and try to learn a little about the country and the people.
Every morning in school we said the Pledge of Allegiance. It's just a thing we do here, starting in Kindergarten, and you say the words because that's what you do. I don't remember when I started thinking about this. Possibly in 5th grade, after we'd spent half a year in Europe and I'd spent some time in a school in Austria. In Austria we didn't have a pledge to anything. The only ritual was that we all stood up when the teacher entered the room and we waited silently until the teacher told us we could sit. A ritual of respect for the teacher. This isn't entirely problematic, but at least it doesn't have a bunch of children making pledges they don't understand.
So I started thinking about the pledge, and I had a problem with it. A flag is a piece of cloth. Why pledge allegiance to that? Because it represents our country. Yeahbut, we're already pledging allegiance "and to the country for which it stands." Well, because it also represents the values that our country stands for.
Um. Okay. But what about when the country does things that don't jive with the values that we say we're representing? (I don't think I actually knew the word "jive" back then.) Then what do you do? What is it we're promising here? Blind allegiance? My country right or wrong? My parents are from Yugoslavia, and I'd witnessed complete strangers walk up to them after hearing their accent, call them "commies," and tell them to go back to Russia. Is that what the Pledge of Allegiance means?
And as I read and lived and learned more, I came to realize that flags aren't just something to represent your country and people and culture. It's something that's used to divide people. It's something that's waved to rally Us against Them. It's something that people kill for.
So I don't have a flag.