Opinion: The American Flag Flies For Democracy, Not Against It During this week's impeachment trial, images were shown of the Jan. 6 insurrection, which included the U.S. flag. In his essay, Scott Simon remembers more promising moments where the flag was flown.
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Opinion: The American Flag Flies For Democracy, Not Against It

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Opinion: The American Flag Flies For Democracy, Not Against It

Opinion: The American Flag Flies For Democracy, Not Against It

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The morning of January 6, my wife and I saw people fill the streets of Washington, D.C., waving American flags as they walked toward the National Mall to protest the outcome of a free and fair election. This week, when we saw security video shown at Donald Trump's impeachment trial, we realized many of the rioters used the same sticks and polls on which they waved those flags to smash their way into the U.S. Capitol and beat officers who guarded its chambers.

Those stars and stripes are the same flag New York City firefighters raised over the rubble at ground zero and that astronauts unfurled on the soil of the moon. It is the same flag seen just across the river from the Capitol in the sculpture of the Iwo Jima Memorial that immortalizes the U.S. Marines who advanced through gunfire up Mount Suribachi in 1945 and raised the flag to inspire Marines to keep going.

It is the flag that rallied Union troops at Gettysburg in the battle that turned the tide of the Civil War. It is the flag flown by U.S. soldiers who liberated the inmates of Buchenwald, Dachau and other Nazi death camps in 1945 and the flag that ripples over more than 9,000 graves at the U.S. military cemetery in Normandy, where so many Americans died fighting tyranny.

It is the U.S. flag that stood in the entrance to Jane Addams' Hull-House settlement in Chicago that welcomed people who arrived in the city, often poor, hungry and rejected from all over the world.

It is the flag on the cover of Bruce Springsteen's album "Born In The U.S.A.," in which he sings of the country he hopes will live up to its noblest ambitions. I want to sleep beneath peaceful skies in my lover's bed with a wide-open country in my eyes and these romantic dreams in my head.

That U.S. flag that was carried across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., in 1965 by marchers who called on their country to fulfill its pledge of equality. John Lewis, a leader of that march, was beaten nearly to death that day by Alabama state troopers. And the U.S. flag draped his casket when Congressman John Lewis died last year, and he lay in state in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, the very building rioters attacked on January 6.

As we saw this week, rioters used the poles on which they waved American flags as clubs to try to beat down American democracy and the public servants sworn to defend it. Their attacks shook America. But even before the broken glass had been swept up and blood on the floor had dried, democracy went on.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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