As a child, I owned exactly one flag shirt — a white tank top selected from Old Navy's seemingly endless stock of patriotic graphic tees. I wore it each summer on the Fourth of July, when my Northern Californian summer camp exploded into a beautiful chaos of waterslides and Rocket Pops. It felt right to blend in among the star spangled crowd of campers, but outside of July 4, it felt like wearing a costume.
There are plenty of Americans who wear red, white, and blue beyond federal holidays, whether it be running to the grocery store or going to school. But not in my hometown of Los Angeles. Instead, the only patriotic memorabilia I saw beyond Independence Day was on the touristy Venice Beach boardwalk, where vendors sold T-shirts emblazoned with massive bald eagles and the words "Back to Back World War Champs." My upbringing was unquestionably American, but my community rarely participated in visibly patriotic dressing. This social norm begs the question: Who does the image of America belong to?
In the current political climate, advertising America feels even more complicated. Does wearing red, white, and blue translate into tacit approval of our government, with its travel bans and attempts to limit access to healthcare? Or, is it possible to exercise a larger sense of national patriotism without supporting the current administration?
The American flag is not owned by a single demographic — it is a banner for endless iterations of our national experience. This year, my Fourth of July outfit will go beyond the traditional flag tee and instead center on a phrase recently popularized by the ACLU: "dissent is patriotic." I choose to wear clothing that showcases my values, financially supports invaluable nonprofits, and fits into my unique style of personal expression. I choose to wear clothing that showcases my America.