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
While the flag was used as a symbol of joy in Germany during the World Cup for the first time since the last World War, and how surprisingly unconstrained it was - it was easy to read from the numerous press reports on this subject - this is the Star Spangled Banner an integral part of daily life in America, which many Americans identify with as such.
A people made up of people of many origins needs symbols that can be identified as a unity. Being an American means that your own ancestors eventually made the decision to leave home and start a new world. You broke with your own past and tradition and had to seek new values and a new identity and create.
What is better for this step than the American Revolution, during which thirteen former colonies broke away from the mother country and declared themselves an independent state. That's what the American flag and all the ceremonies associated with it stand for.
What you should avoid as a guest in the US when dealing with the flag
A particularly notable episode regarding the American flag came on our journey through Vermont and New Hampshire. It clearly showed how Americans and Europeans stand by their flag and what different values they associate with it. We arrived at the USA on a small and insignificant border crossing between Quebec and Vermont. The fact that not many tourists from Europe appear here was clearly visible to the faces of the border guards when they looked at our German passports. But as luck would have it, shortly after us a French family arrived at this small border post, which had to wait until we had completed the entire entry procedure.
Children are usually not the most patient of people when traveling, so the father tried to entertain his own by explaining the map of the United States on the wall at the border post. Unfortunately, in front of it was an American flag on a movable stand. Because it blocked the view of the full map, the French father simply grabbed the flag and set it aside.
The border official, who was processing our entry in the meantime, had repeatedly watched the French banter with attentive eyes. At that moment, however, an indignant voice escaped his mouth: “Do not touch my flag!” (Don't touch my flag!) Startled, the Frenchman let go of the American flag and sat down - together with his whining children - on the seats in the waiting room without knowing what he'd done. The border official mumbled angrily into his beard - audibly for us who were standing directly in front of him - “No respect for the flag!” And kept giving the family indignant looks.
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 honoring of the flag had a rather disreputable aftertaste in the Germany of my generation after the years of the brown terror. Only in recent years has the relationship to state symbols in Germany relaxed. Quite different in the US, where the flag is a symbol of the unity of the American people, which embodies the cohesion of a diverse mix of people. It stands for peace and harmony in one's own people. Find out more about the meaning and history of the American flag on this website: Flag of the United States
Text: © Copyright Monika Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline
Photo: © Copyright by Monika Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline