On the very first day I set foot in the United States as a young student from Europe too many years ago, I accidentally mistook a renowned fast food restaurant for the local post office. Why the silly mistake? Because of the national flag flying in front of it. I thought it was the official building I was looking for, not a commercial joint.
It seemed the Stars and Stripes were everywhere, enjoying an extraordinary status in American public culture and in Americans’ private lives. But even if some of the flags flying over car dealerships across the United States are impressively large – as is the number of U.S. politicians wearing flag pins on their lapels – Americans should resist the temptation to chalk up their love of the national symbol to some wonderful “only in America” exceptionalism.
People across Europe also have a passionate relationship with their flying…
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