Like so many Americans, I am an immigrant. I had to choose to be one. It was an honor I studied for, took a test for and pledged my life to, in front of my young children, my husband and many new Americans in Portland, way back in the 1990s.

I have been thinking about the American flag recently, this red, white and blue banner that signifies so much. My advisees in the public school in which I teach pledge allegiance to it together, as do I. We sing to it at ballgames.

But a funny thing happened at a recent mothers’ march. I was in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, with college friends, and we joined the large crowd there speaking up against gun violence. Right over our heads, a young man leaned out the window, waving an enormous Stars and Stripes. My first reaction, sadly, was to cringe. To worry that he was about to throw things at us or holler insults. But all he yelled was, “Love you guys. Got to go to work. Keep it up.”

And I realized that this young man was right. We need to take the flag back. We need to bring it to our rallies in the name of positive change, dialogue and the long arc of justice.

Peace is patriotic. Dissent is patriotic. The United States of America is a long, glorious (and inglorious) story about immigration, nationalization and a common idea. I hope so fervently that this flag stands for the common good.

It’s our flag, too.

Charlotte Agell


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