Using the Flag and Religion as a Marketing Tool
Today is Flag Day. Congratulations to everyone displaying their patriotism today. I hope that all the flag fliers will remember the flag, in and of itself, is not what’s important. It’s the symbolism that’s significant; our flag represents a nation of people, unity and its precepts: freedom, justice and independence, for every citizen. It’s not the piece of fabric, but the meaning behind it.
While many will rail on today about the proper way to display the flag, its care and other details; few will think about how businesses and corporations have gradually defiled our flag. They haven’t destroyed it or burned it; they’ve reduced our nation’s symbol of freedom, justice and independence to a cheap marketing and advertising tool.
Drive around town on any given day (not just a patriotic holiday) and you will see used car dealerships whose sidewalks are lined with flags. Call me cynical, but I don’t think this is a proud display of patriotism. I see it as a way to catch a driver’s attention; a shameless advertising tool. “Hey people, all eyes over here!! Do business with me—I’m a true patriot.”
All of the national and multinational corporate businesses now fly flags out front: McDonald’s, chain restaurants, malls, movie theaters, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. Slowly, surely and almost imperceptibly, the flag (and the cross) have replaced the BBB and the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. It whispers: “We’re patriots, we’re religious, we’re the good guys, do business with us! We can be trusted. If you do business with us that means your patriotic and religious too! “
Banks have flown the flag for a very long time, but I think it’s a tad ironic. These institutions very nearly brought the entire world to an economic still point four years ago. Patriotic? That wouldn’t be the word I would use.
It’s not only the flag, but the cross also has become a marketing and advertising tool (as well as political). I see “Jesus Saves Lawn Care” or “All God’s Creatures Pet Shop” and I don’t like it. As a matter of fact, if I see a business that has overtly religious advertising, I’m disinclined to do business with them. It’s like Queen Gertrude in Hamlet ; too over the top.. Flags and crosses have become badges of honor signifying supposed superiority; rather than the noble symbols of love, compassion, common good and cooperation they once were.
Of course, everyone notices how angry faux patriotism and religiosity has invaded governance; mainly on the Right. Candidates regularly employ calculated, deliberate, and partisan uses of patriotism and faith to attract voters, identify and attack enemies, and solidify power. Cain said God wanted him to run, Perry said God told him to run, and Bachman echoed the same. Which candidate was right?
This twisted view of religiosity stems from a narcissistic belief that the universe was created especially for them; a solitary platform for their own selfish quest. We all need to remember that God is not Santa Claus, but many times that’s how He’s regarded.
I don’t like this patriotic and deity overload in the name of making money. It is more evidence of how capitalism has become a ubiquitous part of American life. It’s invaded every aspect of our lives. Our very existence reflects life as a business and marketing model. Making a dollar, emulating the rich and famous, keeping up appearances; it trumps everything. It’s as if Americans have fallen under a spell, a capitalist hypnotism; except the dollar ticks and tocks in front of our eyes, instead of a watch. Corporateurs urge us to ignore the pervasive and growing ugliness around us. Just keep shopping, going to the gym, buying shoes, watching Jersey Shore and stupid, artless movies and everything will be alright! They urge us just to be happy and not worry; they’ll take care of everything for us!
I’m not asking for new laws or angry boycotts. I’m merely asking that you think about it. Think about why you fly the flag and why you display or wear the cross. True mindfulness is something that’s in short supply these days.
Carol Morgan is a career counselor, writer, speaker, former Democratic candidate for the Texas House and the award-winning author of Of Tapestry, Time and Tears, a historical fiction about the 1947 Partition of India. Follow her on Twitter @CounselorCarol1, on Facebook: CarolMorgan1 and her writer’s blog at carolmorgan.org