I was troubled by the Jan. 20 Short Takes item, “When politicians use the flag for political gain.” It is fascinating that I’ve been placed in a defensive position on my many-years-long display of the American flag on my lapel. I make no apologies.

The writer did not approach me to ask what my motivation is.

The self-involved, polemical, hyperbolic tone of the piece was revealed in the false claim that I wear an inordinate number of pins. I wear two small pins everyday: An American flag and my Minnesota Senate member’s pin.

If the writer had called, he might have learned a few things about me and my background: I grew up in a military family. My brother is a lieutenant in the Navy. I’m honoring the sacrifice of my father, brother, uncles and cousins who all served in the military. I’m honoring the brother of a best friend who has fallen in war. I follow the example of my beloved, patriotic grandmother, who flew a flag in front of her house every single day (as did I before I moved into an apartment). She never appeared in public without a flag pin, all in honor of her three military sons. I purchased over 50 flag pins for my entire extended family to wear at her funeral.

I’m honoring the struggle of all minority people over the course of the entire history of our country, including members of my own LGBT community, to be considered as worthy of the fullness of citizenship. The writer would seem to easily dismiss the many kinds of sacrifices — including the sacrifice of their lives — that thousands have made to build a better country for all of us.

I seek to send a signal from my part of the political spectrum that progressive values of security, freedom and equality are patriotic values that support the advancement of our country and democracy.

I strive to communicate to young people, many of whom identify with my leadership role in the issues they care about, that ours is a system that works for all of us, even while we’re working to make it even better. That even while voicing dissent, being counted as a patriot is not socially undesirable.

Exclusionary words like “abomination” are pretty strong. Ours is a big flag. We all share in the many positive values it represents.


Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, is a member of the Minnesota Senate.