Opinion: In defense of the Betsy Ross flag

Michael Warren

During Patriot Week, we fly flags that symbolize freedom, each one representing a foundational principle derived from our Declaration of Independence.

Included among these is the Betsy Ross flag, though it is shunned as a symbol of oppression in some quarters.

The shoe’s heel has a U.S. flag with 13 white stars in a circle on it, known as the Betsy Ross flag.

The detractors of this flag are misinformed, shallow or just plain subversive. Let’s assume they are misinformed:

It's true: America’s past is bloodied, bruised and blemished with unjust wars, slavery, gender oppression discrimination and the genocide of Native Americans. But no nation is free from the sins of the past. 

Many point to Europe as a model to be followed and ignore the hundreds of millions victimized by the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, World War I, the French Reign of Terror, the centuries-old Protestant v. Catholic wars, Rome, imperialism, and the list goes on.

The rest of the world is no better. Entire civilizations have been wiped out by enemies. Going back far enough, every person on the planet is likely the descendant of someone who engaged in what we would consider today to be barbarism. 

So what does America and the Betsy Ross Flag have to offer?

Before the Declaration of Independence was adopted, no major nation on the Earth was a republic. That we established a form of government, in Lincoln’s words, “of the people, by the people, for the people” is more than enough to deserve praise in the history books. But there is more.

No nation in history was dedicated to the proposition that governments were instituted to protect the unalienable rights of the people. That remains true today. We believe that our rights come from the creator (or nature and nature’s law) — not as handouts at the whims of the rulers — and we have governments to secure those rights.

No nation embraced the idea of a limited government, establishing a limited central (federal) authority focused on national issues, while leaving to local governments (states) matters closer to home, providing both liberty and good governance. 

No government wrote down their fundamental law. We have the oldest Constitution in the world. Certainly none allowed the courts to strike down laws and actions in violation of the Constitution. The denigration of the rule of law was a centerpiece of why we declared independence, and it is the linchpin of our Constitution. 

No nation empowered the people through their representatives, invited them to help draft and debate the fundamental law, and required ratification of a written constitution to embody and establish a social compact. 

No nation had established an amendment process to fix and improve the fundamental law and ensured elections to “vote the bums out” — that is, to alter or abolish the government.

And yes, no other nation had declared as a “self-evident truth” that all men are created equal — not a single one.

At the time, the Betsy Ross flag symbolized the most free nation in world history. That nation was not — and is not — perfect. It was and is bitterly flawed. But even in 1776 it was a monumental achievement. 

People walk under an American flag inside the Oculus, part of the World Trade Center transportation hub, on the anniversary of 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018.

Those who fought for emancipation, women’s suffrage and civil rights harkened to the Declaration of Independence to make America live up to its promise. Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, and Martin Luther King Jr. saw themselves as the inheritors and defenders of the Spirit of ’76.

That flag was not a symbol of oppression, but of the most free nation on Earth — an indispensable stepping stone to the expansion of liberty on the world stage. We should celebrate, not denigrate it.

Judge Michael Warren is an Oakland County Circuit Court judge, former member of the State Board of Education, and co-founder of PatriotWeek.  For more information, visit www.PatriotWeek.org and www.AmericasSurvivalGuide.com.