A Fourth of July Symbol of Unity That May No Longer Unite

SOUTHOLD, N.Y. — The American flag flies in paint on the aspect of Peter Treiber Jr.’s potato truck, an area landmark parked completely on County Route 48, doing little extra, he thought, than drawing consideration to his household’s farm.

Until he tried to promote his produce.

At an area greenmarket the place he sells issues like wild bergamot, honey and sunflowers, he had bother hanging a deal till, he mentioned, he let his liberal leanings slip out in dialog with a buyer.

“She said, ‘Oh, whew. You know, I wasn’t so sure about you, I thought you were some flag-waving something-or-other,’” Mr. Treiber, 32, recalled the girl saying and citing his potato truck show. “That’s why she was apprehensive of interacting with me.”

He paused: “It was a little sad to me. It shows the dichotomy of the country that a flag can mean that. That I had to think, ‘Do I need to reconsider having that out there?’”

Thirteen stripes, a dusting of stars, the American flag has had infinite meanings over the 244 years because the nation started flying one. Raised at Iwo Jima, it was a logo of victory. Lit on fireplace, it turned a searing picture of the protests towards the Vietnam War. Ribboned across the twin towers on commemorative Sept. 11 lapel pins, it’s a reminder of the threats towards a fragile democracy.

Politicians of each events have lengthy sought to wrap themselves within the flag. But one thing could also be altering: Today, flying the flag from the again of a pickup truck or over a garden is more and more seen as a clue, albeit an imperfect one, to an individual’s political affiliation in a deeply divided nation.

Supporters of former President Donald J. Trump have embraced the flag so fervently — at his rallies, throughout conservative media and even throughout the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol — that many liberals like Mr. Treiber fear that the left has all however ceded the nationwide emblem to the appropriate.

What was as soon as a unifying image — there’s a star on it for every state, in spite of everything — is now alienating to some, its stripes now fault strains between individuals who kneel whereas “The Star-Spangled Banner” performs and people for whom not pledging allegiance is an affront.

And it has made the celebration of the Fourth of July, of patriotic bunting and muffins with blueberries and strawberries organized into Old Glory, into one other cleft in a rustic that appears now not fairly so indivisible, below a flag threatening to fray.

Mr. Treiber’s farm is within the city of Southold, a string of hamlets and a village on the North Fork of Long Island’s Suffolk County. The county selected Mr. Trump for president in 2020 by simply 232 votes out of greater than 770,000 forged.

Southold is predominantly white, with a small, longstanding Black inhabitants — households who reside principally within the village, Greenport, on the edge of the salty Peconic River. There can be a big Latino inhabitants, many of them undocumented, their labor underpinning the vineyards, farms and landscaping companies that line the peninsula.

The strain to attract partisan strains is fierce.

David Surozenski, a Republican, refused so as to add Trump flags to his show. “That’s not the best way I used to be introduced up,” he mentioned. “The American flag political? No.”Credit…Johnny Milano for The New York Times

Just throughout the road from Treiber Farms, David Surozenski, 66, was weeding across the flagpole in his entrance yard a number of days earlier than the Fourth of July. Bouquets of miniature American flags flapped among the many marigolds at his ft. Above him flew the flags of the Marines and the Coast Guard — he has kids in every service — and on the prime, an American flag.

A Republican, Mr. Surozenski mentioned pals continuously pressured him so as to add Trump banners to his flag-and-flower backyard, to fly “Make America Great Again” indicators between his pink, white and blue pinwheels whirling within the grass. But Mr. Surozenski declined — some of his eight kids are Democrats.

“They said, ‘Dave, you’ve got to put Trump’s flag up!’ and I said, ‘No, that’s not happening,’” Mr. Surozenski recalled. “That’s not the way I was brought up. The American flag political? No.”

About 70 p.c of Americans say the flag makes them really feel proud, based on a latest survey by YouGov, a worldwide public opinion and knowledge analysis agency, and NBCLX, a cell info platform. The sentiment was shared by about 80 p.c of white Americans, just below 70 p.c of Hispanic Americans and barely lower than 60 p.c of Black Americans.

The divisions have been deeper when it got here to politics. While 66 p.c of Republicans surveyed mentioned they related the flag with their very own occasion, solely 34 p.c of Democrats mentioned the identical.

At its 1777 inception, the flag’s very design signified unity, the becoming a member of of the 13 colonies, mentioned John R. Vile, a professor of political science and a dean at Middle Tennessee State University.

Politicizing the American flag is thus a perversion of its unique intent, based on Professor Vile, who can be the creator of “The American Flag: An Encyclopedia of the Stars and Stripes In U.S. History, Culture and Law.” He added, “We can’t allow that to happen.”

“It’s E Pluribus Unum — from many, one,” he mentioned, citing the Latin motto on the Great Seal of the United States. “If the pluribus overwhelms the unum, then what do we have left?”

The sentiment of some conservatives is that a line was drawn when Colin Kaepernick, the previous National Football League quarterback, set off a nationwide motion protesting the shootings of Black males by police by taking a knee throughout the anthem in 2016. His kneeling protest, Mr. Kaepernick has mentioned, nonetheless demonstrated respect for the flag, however others noticed him as hijacking the flag for political functions.

Maryneily Rodriguez, 33, mentioned she believed that Mr. Trump’s most fervent supporters had completed the identical. Ms. Rodriguez, who was visiting Greenport along with her fiancé throughout the Fourth of July weekend, mentioned that she as soon as commonly flew the flag at her residence in Freeport, about 80 miles west on Long Island, taking it down solely in winter for safekeeping. But about three years in the past when spring got here, Ms. Rodriguez, who’s Black and a Democrat, left the flag in storage. It hasn’t come out since.

“It felt like it didn’t belong to me anymore,” she mentioned.

John Hocker, a Republican who mentioned he generally votes Democratic, additionally mentioned he felt the flag had misplaced its which means of unity. Instead of saluting the identical flag as one folks, he mentioned, too many Americans have been modifying it to turn out to be emblems of their very own identities or perception programs, as an illustration with rainbow stripes, a logo of homosexual delight, or blue stripes to indicate solidarity with the police.

He flies the flag — the pink, white and blue one — from a towering crane a number of tales above the gravel piles of Latham Sand & Gravel, the place he’s a co-owner.

“There is a lot of history with this country, some that maybe people don’t like today, and some that people are being judged for today for what they did 300 years ago,” he s­help.

“It’s still our country and every good and bad thing made it our country,” Mr. Hocker mentioned, glancing upward. “And that’s what that represents.”

The tradition struggle he was alluding to was on full show a number of miles away, hanging from the eaves of an empty roadside stand: “SAVE AMERICA” was printed alongside the flag’s prime border, and under: “FIGHT SOCIALISM.”

And on a discover tacked close by: “If this offends you LEAVE.”

A flag, and a portion of the Pledge of Allegiance meant to convey unity, is displayed on the billboard for St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Greenport. Credit…Johnny Milano for The New York Times

At Rinconcito Hispano in Greenport, Ana Perez, 33, served up pupusas, stuffed masa flour patties from her native El Salvador, to clients who ordered solely in Spanish. Many of them are the laborers who clear the swimming pools on the seaside homes and scare the crows off the grapes on the wineries.

In 2017, as Mr. Trump started his crackdown on unlawful immigration, village trustees unanimously adopted a decision to declare Greenport “a welcoming community.” One resident opposing the measure on the assembly urged the general public to name and report anybody who employed undocumented immigrants. Wearing an American flag on his chest, he held up an indication with a telephone quantity.

Ms. Perez mentioned she has an American flag T-shirt, too, and she or he supposed to put on it on the vacation. “This symbolizes this country, and I live in this country,” she mentioned, talking in Spanish as a result of she isn’t fluent in English. “This flag is for all.”

Maryneily Rodriguez and Anthony Dipolito, who’re engaged, walked via a forest of American flags in Greenport whereas on trip.Credit…Johnny Milano for The New York Times

Strolling along with her fiancé, Anthony Dipolito, Ms. Rodriguez took within the 1920 wood carousel beside the marina in Greenport.

As she crossed via Mitchell Park, she was struck by the sight of a forest of American flags. It was not a prop for a political rally, however relatively a peaceable “field of honor” put in by the Greenpoint Rotary Club.

Each flag represented not an ideological perception, based on the membership, however a veteran or different citizen who had impressed or helped the group.

“I’ve always loved the American flag so much, and now seeing it by the carousel I felt happy again,” Ms. Rodriguez mentioned, as throughout her pink, white, and blue fabric nonetheless waved. “And I haven’t felt that way about the flag in such a long time.”