What does the American flag mean in the USA
The American flag has a completely different meaning for "the American" than the German flag for "the German" or the French flag for "the French".
Different meaning of the flag for Europeans and Americans
In Germany, the flag was only a symbol of joy again at the World Cup a few years ago. How unusual this is could easily be seen from the numerous press reports on this subject during the World Cup. At that time, for the first time since the last world war, people in Germany saw the flag positively and dealt with it surprisingly relaxed. The Star Spangled Banner in America, on the other hand, is an integral part of everyday life. Many Americans only identify themselves as such via the flag.
A people composed of people of many origins needs symbols. It can use this to identify itself as a unit. Being an American means that at some point your ancestors made the decision to leave your homeland. They set out for a new world. In doing so, they broke with their own past and tradition. Instead, you had to look for and create new values and a new identity.
What better symbolizes this move than the American Revolution? During this period, thirteen former colonies seceded from the mother country. Instead, they declared themselves an independent state. This is what the American flag and all the ceremonies associated with it stand for.
Dealing with the American flag as a guest of the USA
Different values and views on the flag
A particularly significant episode concerning the American flag was experienced on our journey through Vermont and New Hampshire. She clearly showed how Americans and Europeans feel about their flag. It became clear what different values they associate with it. We entered the US at a small border crossing between Quebec and Vermont. The fact that not many tourists from Europe turn up here was clear to see on the faces of the border officials. They didn't seem quite sure how to deal with us as they looked at our German passports. But as luck would have it, a French family had arrived at this small border post shortly after us. This had to wait until we had completed the entire entry procedure.
The incident with the French family
Children are not usually the most patient people when traveling. So the father tried to entertain his family by explaining the map of the USA that was hanging on the wall in the border station. Unfortunately, in front of it was an American flag on a moveable stand. Because it blocked the view of the full map, the French father simply grabbed the flag and put it aside.
The meaning of the flag in the USA
The border official who was processing our entry in the meantime had kept watching the French banter with attentive eyes. At that moment, however, an indignant expression escaped his lips: "Do not touch my flag!" He settled into the waiting room seats with his whining children, unaware of what he had done. The border official murmured angrily into his beard – audible to us who were standing directly in front of him: “No respect for the flag!”. He kept throwing indignant looks at the family.
Different backgrounds lead to misunderstandings
Apparently, the French visitors had no idea that the oath to the American flag is still part of everyday school life at most American schools. Kids in the US usually grow up with a respect for the flag. There are even strict rules on how the flag should be handled by hanging it on a flagpole in front of your own house. I do not know if the American border guards knew that his guests were French from Europe or from Quebec. In any case, he could not imagine that the flag in other countries would not take on the same status as the one he had been taught throughout his life. This incident shows how quickly a difficult situation can arise from different points of view and opinions - simply because the respective participants do not know the background and act from their own point of view.
The Meaning and History of the American Flag
In the Germany of my generation, the honoring of the flag had a rather disreputable aftertaste after the years of brown terror. Only in recent years has the relationship to state symbols in Germany relaxed. Very different in the US. There the flag is a symbol of the unity of the American people, which embodies the cohesion of a motley mix of peoples. So she stands for peace and harmony in her own people. However, perhaps this image of the flag was changed by the storming of the Capitol by Trump supporters? In any case, the flag on that day had nothing to do with the unity of the American people. For more on the meaning and history of the American flag, visit this website: United States flag.
American Flag Questions and Answers:
Why does the American flag have 50 stars?
Each star on the American flag represents a state in the United States. There are 50 states in total, hence the 50 stars on the flag.
How many times can the American flag be flown?
The American flag can be flown at any time. There are no restrictions or specifications on which occasions the flag may be hoisted.
What happens if the American flag is damaged?
If the American flag is damaged, it should be disposed of in a dignified manner. This can be done, for example, by burning the flag in a special ceremony. The exact handling of the flag is defined in a separate law in the USA.
How is the American flag raised on Memorial Day?
On Memorial Day, the American flag is first raised at full height and then lowered to half mast. This is in commemoration of the fallen US soldiers.
When was the current version of the American flag introduced?
The current 50-star version of the American flag was officially adopted on July 4, 1960. A year earlier, Alaska and Hawaii had been incorporated into the United States as new states.
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Text: © Copyright Monika Fuchs and TravelWorldOnline
Photo: © Copyright by Monika Fuchs and TravelWorldOnline