Americans and Their Flag

9 Mar 2017 Karina S. Henkel

Last week I visited a class that was organized by the Maine Department of Labor. I sat there listening to what the instructor had to say about the duties of safety officers. Suddenly I noticed that I had been staring at the American flag for at least ten minutes. And I remembered how much the  extreme display of that flag, for my taste, had bothered me when I moved to the US. Back then I saw this flag everywhere and felt a little bit put off by that custom.

People prop it up in their front yard or hang it on their house. You see that flag at every event, public or not. Government buildings not only display the flag outside, but also inside you will find it in almost every room. It is part of the decor everywhere. You can’t watch TV without being confronted with the flag at least every five minutes. Sports channels, news, and TV programs show this flag all the time. It is decoration but it is also so much more. For Americans the flag is more than just a mere symbol of their country. The flag represents their pride of being an American and living in one of the best countries on this earth. They created a long etiquette code around their flag in order to make sure that the flag is always treated respectfully.

When I lived in Germany I didn‘t see the German flag too often. Government buildings showed flags, as did embassies, and you can see the flag at soccer games. When the German soccer team played at the FIFA World Cup in 2006 I never ever saw so many German flags in the streets before or after. Germans don’t make a big deal of their flag. As a country, we need to have one, obviously, but it is more an accessory for us and stays in the background.

Growing up in West Berlin, surrounded by the Berlin wall, I witnessed how the East German government displayed its flag. And they did the same that Americans do. Children had to greet the GDR flag every morning, and media and government generally made a big deal of that symbol of their way of life.

I think that is why I felt uncomfortable with all these flags when I moved to the US. It reminded me too much of what I had seen in the GDR. But it turns out that I got so used to this custom that I don’t even notice the flags anymore.

But I still resist my husband’s wish to prop a flag up in our yard. I am not that Americanized yet.