Riverfront Park features two decorative benches near the edge of the Spokane River. One depicts the US flag, made of brightly polished metal, and the other depicts the Canadian flag potrayed in a similar manner. They provide a rather patriotic backdrop for individual or family portraits.
As I walked through the park yesterday afternoon, I felt compelled to take my own picture near the US flag. Now I look back and wonder what kind of caption belongs with these photographs. What story do they tell? What discussion might they inspire?
During an election year, I suppose people could read anything into these photographs, or take any position regarding the pressing issues of our day.
For me, the flag raises important questions about citizenship. For example, given the history of US domination of Native peoples, what does it mean for me to be an American? What is the best way to promote democracy now, and how do we balance minority rights with the will of the majority? My ancestors certainly faced these questions as they watched their sovereignty diminish before the overpowering will of the Euro-American majority. And while the specific issues may change over time, the central, enduring questions of democracy remain.
All things considered, perhaps the most patriotic act is to constantly study, question, and learn. As we embrace the difficult questions of our day, our respect for individual freedom and and dignity must increase.