The Taliban, the US, and the Gadsden Flag

This morning I raised the US flag to full staff. It had been lowered in honor of military and civilian victims killed in a terrorist attack as the US left Afghanistan. At work the other day, some co-workers and I were talking about our departure from the region. We all agreed that we’re no mid-east political emissaries. We’re computer fix-it people, not foreign policy experts. But all of us, regardless of political stripe, felt like we exited poorly. Leaving US citizens there, leaving US war materiel there to be plundered, it just doesn’t seem like the wise thing to do. If doesn’t feel like the right thing to do. And yet, that’s the call the US government made.

As I raised Ol’ Glory to her full height, I clipped the Gadsden flag onto the pole below her. Recently, the Gadsden flag has been flown by alt right groups more as a symbol of hate and anarchy. I don’t ascribe to those ideals. Instead, I prefer the historical view of what that flag means. Here’s what Ben Franklin said about the snake iconography:

“[The rattle-snake’s] eye excelled in brightness, that of any other animal, and that she has no eye-lids. She may therefore be esteemed an emblem of vigilance. She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage. As if anxious to prevent all pretensions of quarrelling with her, the weapons with which nature has furnished her, she conceals in the roof of her mouth, so that, to those who are unacquainted with her, she appears to be a most defenseless animal; and even when those weapons are shewn and extended for her defence, they appear weak and contemptible; but their wounds however small, are decisive and fatal. Conscious of this, she never wounds till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of treading on her.

Was I wrong, Sir, in thinking this a strong picture of the temper and conduct of America? The poison of her teeth is the necessary means of digesting her food, and at the same time is certain destruction to her enemies. This may be understood to intimate that those things which are destructive to our enemies, may be to us not only harmless, but absolutely necessary to our existence …
‘Tis curious and amazing to observe how distinct and independent of each other the rattles of this animal are, and yet how firmly they are united together, so as never to be separated but by breaking them to pieces. One of those rattles singly, is incapable of producing sound, but the ringing of thirteen together, is sufficient to alarm the boldest man living.”

“The Rattlesnake tells the Story” – Journal of the American Revolution (

And so the Gadsden flag flies over #downtownspruceheadamerica not as a symbol of hate. I’m not proclaiming allegiance to any former president. Instead, I’m doing my little symbolic act that the Taliban will never see (but a symbolic act that is good for my soul). I’m trying to say “I don’t agree with how the US did this. And Taliban, you think you’ve won. And by our actions, it sure does seem like you won. But here in this house, and many other places in the US, the actions of our government don’t speak for the people of the United States. Don’t think this one action is how we Americans do things. Don’t feel empowered. Don’t tread on us.”