From the Archives

Americans for Social Justice introduce a new grassroots flag as part of a democracy reform effort

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June 12, 2002. National Press Club. Left to right: Steve Shafarman, Ray Carrier, Sen. Mike Gravel, Granny D, George Ripley, Tony Guinivan, Tom Howell, and Chris Strohm.

 

WASHINGTON, DC – Patriotic fervor has been sweeping the country in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and as the U.S. wages war on terrorism. This year’s Flag Day and 4th of July are sure to be the most patriotic in recent memory.

Yet little if any public discussion is being held on what our national values are in a post-Sept. 11 world. 

This Flag Day, June 14, Americans for Social Justice is launching a national program to spark public debate about the state of democracy and social justice in the United States, and to raise money to support “deep democracy” electoral reforms. Americans for Social Justice is a small nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., with a big message.

“We will never achieve social justice as a society until we strengthen our democracy,” says George Ripley, director of the organization. 

On Flag Day, Americans for Social Justice will present a new symbolism of the American flag at the Jim Hightower Rolling Thunder Grassroots Democracy Tour in Chicago, IL. This U.S. flag will be adorned with a bright green fringe representing and honoring the grassroots of social justice — organizations and individuals working for progressive change.

“Since Sept. 11 we’ve seen a huge increase in the amount of interest paid to the United States flag,” Ripley says. “But now that we’re united around the flag, what is it we’re united about?”

The new grassroots flag was designed to stimulate discussion about the values inherent in the national flag and to create a symbol identifying the movement for social justice. The flag will also be sold to raise money for organizations working in four specific areas: instant run-off voting, open presidential debates, publicly financed elections and the national initiative for democracy. The green fringe was designed to contrast with the gold-fringed flag.

“The grassroots flag is challenging blind patriotism,” Ripley says. “We often see the gold-fringed flag behind politicians and military officials when they speak. But what does the gold fringe stand for? Perhaps some clues are the spearpoint, the Imperial Roman Eagle or the ‘cannonball’ which top most flag poles. The finials atop the grassroots flag poles will include either a globe, a dove or a sheaf of wheat. Since Sept. 11, it’s more important than ever to question what our national symbols mean.”

Ripley says the green fringe evokes an emotional response from people and challenges them to think and discuss American values.

“When an individual sees this flag, the shock value provokes discussion,” Ripley says. “The grassroots flag is a power tool in the hands of the people to engage public debate, which can only strengthen our democracy.” 

The grassroots flag is intended to help identify the growing movement for grassroots democracy and social justice, just as the peace symbol represented the movement to end the Vietnam War.

“As we begin to see the grassroots flag appearing on neighbors’ porches, we will have a greater sense of the growing movement for social justice,” Ripley says.