The whole story has had an almost algorithmic feel about it from the jump, like one of those text-jammed procedurally generated t-shirts you see on Facebook except that this one says You’re Damn Right I Will Defend Betsy Ross From Sneaker Companies And Free Agent Quarterbacks. It is hot outside and a lot of people are off work today, and yet this story continues to run smoothly even on autopilot. Various grouches and weirdos rise in turn to deliver themselves of speeches and sermons that consist of the same 50 words arranged in slightly different order. It is useless, or useful only in demonstrating which members of Congress are willing to tweet feet pics and which prefer to rely on ominous line breaks to make their point. All of them make the same point, which is not really a point at all so much as it is pretending to be oppressed by what some other person thinks or some sneaker company does.


It is reasonable to wonder what a flag would even be doing on a shoe, where it could get dog shit mushed onto it or be dunked in a mud puddle or otherwise suffer the sort of indignities from which flags are generally protected. The short answer is that it was there because someone at Nike thought it might help the shoes sell, although that’s not a thing flags are supposed to be used for, either. But the way these symbols get used necessarily change over time, and to fit the interests of those using them. “In Betsy Ross’s time, the flag was strictly utilitarian,” Betsy Ross House director Lisa Moulder said. “It was a military tool. It wasn’t commercialized until much later. In the 18th century, flags helped troops on land or at sea identify each other, so you’d know if you were firing on military troops or an ally.” There’s always some war to find.

Additional reporting by Dan McQuade.