Picking a new Symbol for American Defiance

It’s time to retire the Gadsden flag. If you don’t know what that is, it’s the other flag flapping on the back of a pickup truck opposite a Confederate battle flag. I’m talking about the bright yellow flag with that smug-looking rattlesnake and the phrase, “Don’t tread on me.” It’s a flag meant to display passive-aggressive defiance of the government adopted by “patriotic” libertarians and other sects of the far-right political spectrum and the occasional human rights activist.

The flag itself dates back to the American Revolution, created by one Mr. Colonel Christopher Gadsden, one of the first Naval officers under George Washington, and used by Continental Marines as a statement of purpose. Throughout the flags lifetime, it has flown on battleships and other arms of the war machine hangs on walls and in windows, became emblazoned on t-shirts and beer koozies, and shown off as tattoos and Facebook profile pics. The flag has had a long and storied life without question. And now, just like an old sick dog, we need to take it to “live on a farm,” or maybe in the new American tradition, kill it with a drone strike.

The flag depicts a smug-looking rattlesnake coiled and ready to strike. Underneath, is the phrase, “DONT TREAD ON ME,” in all caps of course, because if you have to say it because some whiny liberal is oppressing you, you might as well fucking yell it at the top of your lungs to get your message across. Snakes have been used as a symbol of the American people since the early days of discontent for the crown, representing vigilance, courage, generosity, and the ability to be deadly when provoked. History has proven all of these things true without question. Snakes were a symbol of strength and liberty, the utmost qualities of a people with a desire for liberty, a positive affirmation, maybe. Nowadays, snakes are more representative of the slimy, venomous dickheads that rule over us like an alcoholic step-father that pulls his dick out at family functions.

I argue that a new emblem is in order, an update to the symbol that has been representative of our culture for hundreds of years. America isn’t that America anymore. It’s changed with the advent of social media, divisive identity politics, and economic inequality. A new United States needs a new symbol of the American zeitgeist- ladies, gents and all those in between, I present you with a new image emblematic of contemporary American culture- a symbol of vigilance, pride, and ego — the ouroboros.

I know, I know, the Ouroboros is a sign that throughout history meant perpetual rebirth according to the hippies so let me put this into a different context for you. When a snake is too stressed, the temperature of its habitat is wrong, or is blind, that dumb bastard will start eating its tail thinking it’s the enemy. See, the snake isn’t smart enough to see that what it’s doing is actually harmful to the body as a whole. I mean, who gives a shit about a tail when the head is still attached, right? I can’t think of another image that describes the mentality of the people of the United States more completely and with more brevity than that.

The United States in the past few decades, especially since 9/11 has been gnawing away at its tail while the head is too filled with ego to know when to stop and lick the wounds, to let the tail be, or you know, stop treading all over the fucking thing. We’ve seen a rise in public displays of hatred (looking at you, Nazis), overbearing political correctness coupled with nonsensical censorship (looking at you, liberals), unabashed hypocrisy from those in charge as well as bending of the rules to gain political power outside the will of the people (shout out to government). Ok, so maybe the last one is more of a U.S. tradition instead of a new fad, but, now with all the world’s information at our fingertips, it is more apparent that we as a people are being trodden all over.

One example as to why our precious Gadsden flag is of no use to us anymore is the most obvious one- government. The assholes in expensive suits have forgotten what Colonel Gadsden and the founding fathers even fought for, getting out from under the boot of an oppressive regime. Sure, we’re not ruled by the crown anymore and nobody is going around collecting taxes at gunpoint, but the fact that every new Congress, every new president has absolutely not enacted any laws increasing our freedoms and right to privacy. Instead, these assholes do the opposite for only what I can assume is an effort to consolidate and strengthen their own power. Even though we can have a revolving door in all government bodies, the body itself can only exist with steadfast self-preservation. Without it, the institution would crumble and the nation would be in a constant state of chaos.

The United States government has always engaged in trampling on the rights and privacy of its citizens. In the early days, it would quash rebellions because the noisy wheel gets the grease, only in this scenario, the grease is the might of the U.S. Army. Then, of course, there is the overt oppression of the Native Americans. The government forced them from their native lands, set them up with “prime” real estate in fucking Oklahoma of all places and killed the ones that dared to stand up for themselves. As everyone witnessed in late 2016 and all of 2017 the government still wants to piss all over the right of the natives by shooting them with water cannons and send the dogs out because the indigenous wanted to protect their land from a private corporation running a messy pipeline through their sacred ground.

We can move along to the 20th century and see the imprisonment of Japanese Americans during World War II. The only thing that separated us from the Nazis is that we didn’t gas anyone. That was shortly followed by the attempts to snuff out various civil rights movements. When that didn’t work they resorted to a crusade against drug users. They figured, “Hey, it would be wrong to imprison them for exercising their right to free speech and assembly, but if we find a roach in their car’s ashtray…” All of this was done while parts of the government were working with and smuggling drugs for various cartels around the world. Guess what, it still happens.

The 21st century isn’t just continuing the practices of the preceding one but amplifying them. The prime example is the actions of the U.S. government after the events on 9/11. Whether or not you believe the attacks were an inside job isn’t important here, but the way the government responded is. Systematically, the government has been making shit harder for damn near everyone. Airport security, the militarization of the police, illegal warrantless wiretapping, continuing to fight seemingly unwinnable wars, Trump and his goddamn border wall, attempting to repeal laws making healthcare more accessible, cracking down on whistleblowers, non-investment in infrastructure, divide and conquer mentality… Do you feel as safe and secure as you did just 10 years ago? Has your life gotten easier as the size and scope of government have grown in tandem with the advancement of technology? If you’re like me, the answer is certainly, fuck no. Have you heard of the Patriot Act? Probably, but you don’t care because if you’re not doing anything wrong then you have nothing to worry about, right? The worst part is that as a society, we don’t have the balls to truly take on the established order and get out from under the boot of this oppressive regime made up of not just the government but all the oligarchs who fund it.

I would expect governments taking steps to hinder the rights of its citizens, power corrupts and all that shit. What’s upsetting though is that the people of these United States would seemingly rather spend their time arguing on Facebook than standing up for the values they preach about. The Land of the free. The home of the brave. Remember that shit, you hear it all the fucking time. Is that even the case any longer? Did we forget that’s part of our anthem, our musical mission statement? Take a look around. We’re not that free, or it least it seems we aren’t. The question is though, are we still brave? Protesting speakers at university campuses, escalating an argument when someone has a different belief, revoking friendship on social media, telling people they don’t have any right because they’re a man- or white- or both, not wanting others to do with their body as they choose, telling people where they can or can’t worship… not really brave to me. Looks like we’re just scared of words when sticks and stones are still the real threat. And behaving like this is certainly not allowing people to exercise freedom. But one thing I know about people (myself included) is that we’re all assholes.

Should we as sovereign citizens really hinder a person’s right to free speech and group’s right to peacefully assemble? Short answer, no. Long answer, hell fucking no. It shouldn’t matter if the speaker is a Nazi, they have their audiences. It shouldn’t matter if it’s a Klan rally downtown. The thing about America is that even though you may not agree with whatever bullshit they’re trying to push, everyone is allowed by the constitution to peacefully assemble and say what they want to say as long as physical violence isn’t involved.

Free speech and demonstration shouldn’t be limited to those you agree with. It’s for everybody, like oxygen and taxes. You might think you’re brave for taking a stand and fighting to get that hate monger fired from their speaking gig, but you’re not. You might think you’re brave for shutting down your asshole uncle for praising Donald Trump at Thanksgiving dinner, again, probably not. Your rage and your yelling and your stupid signs, that’s not bravery. Sure, the act of protesting can be brave and defiant, but when you use that right to get a guy fired because he said one time that affirmative action is bullshit, c’mon… That’s cowardice. You’re scared of hearing differing viewpoints. Is the big bad talker scaring you? Have their words caused you harm? Did someone’s facebook post have you instantly hitting the unfriend button? If you answered yes to any of these then I say to you, quit being scared of facts or opinions and learn to debate them in a civilized manner. Hear people out with opposing viewpoints. You might learn something of you might just see how ridiculous what they’re saying is. We can’t be considered brave when safe spaces are a thing. Be nicer to each other is all I’m saying.

We’re scared of people on the other team, willing to subvert constitutional law-given rights and be ugly to each other, and allow a government with its media mouthpieces keep us divided. And just like that crazed, blind snake eating its tail, we can’t tell of the actual harm were are doing as a nation. If we want to continue this ride we’re on we need to stop and think about how this shit should be. Have a talk about what a society is, what a community is and see if there’s a better way forward. A little more kindness and an understanding of the fact that we’re all in this together can go a long way. Elementary school history tells you that Lincoln said, “A house divided cannot stand,” before the Civil War. History might not repeat itself, but it does rhyme. So let’s have a flag that closely represents what we are now. A snake that is less of a danger to others and more of a danger to ourselves.




Run of the mill opinionated jerk with a Howard Beale complex.

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Ryan Palmer

Ryan Palmer

Run of the mill opinionated jerk with a Howard Beale complex.

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