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Yesterday was Flag Day, although what that symbol means in America at this moment is hard to gauge. It certainly doesn't signify the same thing to everyone, which has generally been true. The date pays homage to the adoption of the U.S. flag on June 14, 1777, by the Continental Congress. Using it as a day of recognition has a long history. Those given credit for the commemoration include Bernard J. Cigrand, a Wisconsin schoolteacher-turned-Chicago-dentist, along with New York City early childhood education advocate George Bolch -- both of whom agitated on behalf of Flag Day in the 1880s.

By 1916, President Woodrow Wilson was issuing Flag Day proclamations, something Harry Truman and the 81st Congress made official in 1949. The very first efforts, however, seem to have begun in 1861, the first year of the Civil War. They occurred in the North where Americans were sending their sons and husbands off to fight and die in the struggle to end slavery.

The New York Times was a great champion of the U.S. Flag and what it stood for during those four bloody years of reckoning. Today, the stewards of that great newspaper are confounded about the flag. Mara Gay, a member of the Times editorial board, recently complained about being triggered by seeing pickup trucks with Donald Trump bumper stickers "and in some cases just dozens of American flags, which is also just disturbing."

"Essentially the message was clear," she claimed. And that message was: "This is my country. This is not your country. I own this."

One might expect more historical perspective from a 35-year-old biracial woman who has previously written with insight and sensitivity about America's complicated racial history, sometimes in poignantly personal terms. Apparently, though, she's caught up in the hyper-partisan nature of modern American politics. And in casting aspersions on Old Glory (not to mention pickup trucks), she's contributing to the national discord.

The president of the United States suffers from no such confusion. As all modern commanders-in-chief have done, Joseph R. Biden issued a presidential proclamation for Flag Day: "I encourage the people of the United States to observe with pride and all due ceremony those days from Flag Day through Independence Day, set aside by the Congress as a time to honor the American spirit, to celebrate our history and the foundational values we strive to uphold, and to publicly recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America."

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

 

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