Gulfs, waving through the seas of flags. Flags on houses. Flags on cars. Flags beside roads. Flags everywhere. These are images we usually associate with totalitarianism and dictatorships, but in what is called ‘the land of freedom’, this is the reality.

This photo serie was made in 2016, when I last visited the United States of America.

Massive American flag in a Boston subway station

Patriotic signs are not very common in nowadays Western states, though in the USA, patriotism is flourishing. The European part of the Western civilization has abandoned their nationalistic stands after World War II. The fear of it is one reason of it. The other reason is the lead of the individual in the society, over the community. Individualization does not go well with nationalism, while nationalism relies on the community-feeling. A remarkable fact is the one that states that one of the main engines behind the individualization is the capitalistic consumer society, designed by the USA. Though in the USA itself, individualization does not bother the fierceness of patriotism. This seems hard to explain, but think of the melting pot that the USA tends to be. People from all over the world joined the Americain society for many centuries. The USA had the aura of the Americain dream that attracted millions. In order the make such a society work, the need of a common factor rises. That common factor is found in all the symbols that are an image of the Americain citizenship and in particular the Star-Spangled Banner.

Staten Island Ferry terminal

Melting pot vs Salad bowl

With the Americain flag as the ultimate symbol of patriotism, the gouvernement of the USA has created a perfect tool to bind the thousand cultures that are alive in the country. The people are exposed to this tool in their everyday life in a million ways. There are flags waving at the facades of all public buildings and inside they are present as well: hanging on ceilings and stuck to walls. One of the places where there are the most flags on a square meter is the public transport. Below you’ll see some pictures of the NYC metro system and above here you’ll find some pictures of the Staten Island Ferry terminal and the Boston subway.

The American’s Creed

Though the previous paragraphs suggest that the gouvernement is pushing the patriotism onto the people, the roots of the patriotism lies in the people themselves. When the USA became independent from England in the year of 1776 and wrote their constitution twelve years later, they created one of the most democratic governments for that moment in history. With that knowledge, a certain pride rose. The Americans fought and defeated a monarchy, while they were inspired by the virtues of justice, freedom, equality and humanity. This pride was embodied by a resolution that passed the U.S. House of Representatives on the 3rd of April, 1918. Under the title “The American’s Creed”.  This is still an important document to Americans and to understand their patriotism it is a useful document to read.

“I believe in the United States of America, as a government of the people, by the people, for the people; whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a republic; a sovereign Nation of many sovereign States; a perfect union, one and inseparable; established upon these principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes. I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to love it, to support its Constitution, to obey its laws, to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies.”

The American’s Creed, 3rd of April, 1918

Afro America

On the 5th of October, 2001, firefighter Terry Williams stays at home after he has been threatened for making objections against Americain flags that were installed at all the fire trucks in his territory in Florida.

“Of course I have my reservations when thinking about the Americain flag. For my, this flag means something totally different than for white Americana. As a black man, I belong to the enslaved.”

Terry Williams

His colleague Clark: “It is hypocritical. The American flag is a symbol of freedom, justice and equality for all who are protected by the laws of our this country. Also for those who have a different opinion. But in this case apparently not.”

Perception of the Middle East

In the Middle East, the effect of the American flag on the people is totally different than in the majority of the countries in the West. Feelings of hate are not far from their hearts. Of course, this is due to the horrible effects of the Gulf Wars and the sensitive issue of the American support for Israel.

All the damage to the surroundings and families has a lasting effect on the opinion of the Middle East on the U.S.A.  In the Middle East as well as in Korea, Vietnam and several countries in South America these same feelings are evoked.

The effects of U.S.A. foreign policy turn on the perception of their flag as a symbol. But it would be unfair to ignore the fact that the American flag as a brand is still very strong. People in the mentioned countries still have warm feelings towards the America.

“It is a love-hate relationship,” said Mustafa Harmaneh, a political analyst in Jordan. “Culturally, American music is popular. American food is popular. American clothes are popular. People still wear jeans with American flags on them. They wear baseball hats and they don’t see any contradiction in that, despite the animosity toward America.”

The American flag has proved to be  a very strong image. The message of the symbol differed from time to time. Whether the flag was a symbol of patriotism and the virtues the U.S.A. was build on, or the symbol of the black oppression by the whites and a symbol of all the sins that came with the super capitalistic attitude of the America.

Looking roughly the positive attitude towards the flag; the patriotism and pride, is gradually declining and making way for more skepticism. Foreign interventions that have disastrous outcomes and burdensome homeland dossiers like police-violence  and racism make Americans question their pride and non-Americans question their admiration.