In this political climate, where extreme polarization has led to lines being drawn in the strangest places, a new, liberal- and lesbian-owned company based just outside Nashville is challenging the far-right’s assumed ownership of concepts like patriotism! Great Democracy Tees has created a line of unisex t-shirts bearing messages conveying bleeding-heart liberal ideals paired with the stars and stripes. Their mottos is: it’s time to #takebacktheflag.
Great Democracy Tees Sabrina Torres (social media maven) and Jennifer Sheridan (documentary filmmaker) believe that we’ve allowed the far-right to hijack the ideals of patriotism and liberty for far too long.
“Driving through our new, rural neighborhood recently,” Torres said, “we realized that, for years now, especially during the Trump administration and the rise of white supremacy, a lot of us have become really uncomfortable—nervous even—whenever we see someone displaying the American flag.”
“We knew a lot of other people who felt like we did,” Sheridan added. “We felt as if conservatives—especially those who are openly racist and/or homophobic, had somehow commandeered the flag, and anyone who displayed it could now be associated with those positions. As a result, many liberals are so uncomfortable they don't risk displaying the flag at all, for fear of being mistaken as being aligned with far-right conservatives.
“This is our country, too,” Torres declared. “It's incredibly sad, this symbol that should inspire hope and reflect the promise of our country, makes a lot of us feel just the opposite right now when we see it displayed in front of someone’s house.”
They decided to do something about it, creating products that allow liberals, such as those in their LGBTQ+ community, to show pride in what this country could be, while still displaying their liberal values. “
“That’s when we had an idea: what if we found a way help to take back the flag?” Sheridan asked rhetorically. “A way to claim it again, align it with a pro-liberal, pro-science, pro-human voice?”
“We started to talk about ideals that we hoped people would think about when they saw the flag: civil rights, equality, democracy, and hope for the future of our country,” Sheridan continued. “How to get that kind of thinking out into our communities, all across the country, in an everyday way? T-shirts seemed like a logical choice that would makes sense for a lot of people.”
“We’ve created an online store where every unisex t-shirt we offer has a liberal message and an American flag (even if it’s just a small one), to help re-establish the view that you can be someone who loves the flag AND the promise of the United States, someone who believes in liberty and justice and ‘love and compassion for all’,” Torres added.
Above and beyond championing a message, the couple is giving back from the proceeds of their sales. “We don’t just want to put out t-shirts that talk about issues that are important,” Sheridan explained, “we want to help fight to make things right, too, so we’ll be donating $1 from every shirt sale to the ACLU.”
We have a long way to go in reclaiming our country’s values from the far-right, they know, but we can’t do it without publicly confronting their “ownership” of those parts of the national conversation.
“In the end, they’re just t-shirts, but we hope our designs can help in a few ways. One, the message tells people about an issue that is important to you, and where you stand. Maybe it will even help start a discussion,” said Torres. “And two, because every shirt from Great Democracy Tees incorporates not just an issue you care about but also the stars and stripes in some way, you’re identifying yourself as what we like to call a ‘flag-loving liberal’.”
“Why shouldn’t we take back the flag?” Sheridan concluded. “The flag really does belong to everyone, including those of us on the left. The flag + our views = our American values. And we think these values are important for all of us to be able to talk about and take action on. These are things to be proud of. It makes us who we are.”
Visit Great Democracy Tees to view their product line: you might just find a new way to proclaim to your corner of the world that your values are true American values.
Both Sheridan and Torres have previously been featured in O&AN. Click on their names for more!