It is the law of this country that an American flag should hang or be displayed upside down only as a sign of “dire distress,” meaning “instances of extreme danger to life or property” per Title 4 U.S.C. § 1 §8.1 Spence v. Washington (1974) protects this exercise of my First Amendment right.
I AM IN DIRE DISTRESS
I am not safe. I have not felt safe, not the privileged safety of assumed protection, in a very long time. I go about my life and my days in as routine a manner as possible, but I am aggrieved.
Patriots created the flag as a symbol of American freedom. By practice and by law, my ancestors were excluded. By 1777, my forebearors had endured more than a century and a half of systemic and institutionalized enslavement, in a country one-year-old.
Nevertheless, I Persist
Despite my treatment (and the millions of those like me) by this country, even as my voice (and at times my body) trembles, I rise, asserting my rights. I display the flag upside down. I am in EXTREME DISTRESS.
I fully expect those of you who care for me to engage on behalf of the greater good. I am NOT okay. We are NOT okay. Our nation is NOT okay. While you may choose to deny the reality, we have reached an inflection point. I believe what lies ahead is far more daunting than the current moment. Nonetheless, momentum pushes us forward. History will not treat neutrality kindly. Neither will I.
The words of Bishop Desmond Tutu ring daily in my ear,
As I Do Daily, I Close in Prayer.
“How long, O Lord?” When injustice prevails, and the poor are ground into despair.
“How long, O Lord?” Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
These are names we know. And these are the words of Psalm 13. After the death of yet another black man they are my words as well. The psalmist is angry, questioning why God has not acted. Yet in days of old, the stench of sin filled the nostrils of God. God smelled it, tasted it. As of old, it is again today.Father Mario Powell, S. J.