Thirteen stripes alternating red and white, a field of blue in the canton containing white five pointed stars, one star representing each state in the Union. Our flag is a representation of the United States of America and the Constitution that should hold all of us to the high ideals of justice, truth and equity.

We honor the flag not by bestowing it with heart touching or rote recitation of a pledge, but through our integrity and adherence to ideals. Wrapping one’s self in depictions of the flag while ignoring the promises and responsibilities of citizenship is not honoring the flag. Splashing demagogic slogans and epithets across its face does not honor the flag.

I am reclaiming my right to honorably display the U.S. flag and that does not mean that I am a conservative. I am claiming my right to say or not say the Pledge of Allegiance without judgement. I am claiming my right to sing or not sing the national anthem without judgement. I am claiming my right to stand, kneel or sit in protest and respect. I am claiming my right to be patriotic in a real sense of the word, never abdicating my rights and responsibilities as a citizen.

Those who so vociferously claim constitutional rights can never forget the responsibility they have to every other citizen’s rights. The right to vote, express oneself, peacefully protest that which one views as unjust, and live in pursuit of one’s happiness is fundamental to every individual.

Those who belittle respectful acceptance, tolerance, empathy and equity as politically correct and a weakness fail to see that they themselves lose respectability.

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Those who hold the flag aloft and proclaim patriotism while attempting to subvert and withhold the rights of others fail to see that true patriotism is not an act to protect one’s rights by diminishing other’s rights.

Patriotism is accepting the responsibility each of us have to make sure that the rights of our fellow citizens and those around the world are respected and upheld just as vehemently as we hold up our own.

For too long, displaying our flag has been an act of shallow patriotism. I will not display the flag as a shallow symbol, wrongly believing our country to be infallible while ignoring injustice, gas lighting and ignorance. I reclaim the flag as a symbol of my responsibility to learn and grow and progress toward higher values of truth, justice and equity.