Shredded, cut and burned American flags are transformed into reflections on the extraordinary divisions that are tearing the fabric of American democracy.
The guarantee of equality and liberty is the hallmark of pluralistic American democracy. The State Of The Union presents work by artist Sol Hill, made of shredded and altered American flags recast as symbols of the fragile state of our democracy. These are not desecrations of the flag but courageous attempts to look unflinchingly at the damage that extreme polarization and vilification of our fellow citizens has inflicted on the body politic.
There has been a systematic shredding of the fabric of our civil society, without which the institutions of democracy can not persist. Our ideological silos have hardened and deepened, widening our political divide. A decade ago, Americans passed a dangerous threshold now bearing bitter fruit. When asked, more citizens replied that the greatest threat to our country is not a hostile or competitive foreign power, nuclear war, climate change, or the economy, but members of the other political party.
In 2020 on average, 89.5% of members of both political parties said if the other presidential candidate won the presidency, it would inflict lasting harm on the country. Some Americans now trust foreign adversaries more than the other party. The polarization of political beliefs accompanies a polarization of culture where one side primarily values equality while the other primarily values liberty. The inflexibility of our values leads us to believe that the greatest enemies to our way of life are now our fellow citizens.
We must respect both founding principles rather than maintain that my values are superior. The attitude of “My Country” rather than “Our Country” drives us apart. This exhibit reflects the state of the union to which we collectively have brought our country and asks the personal question, “How much responsibility do I bear, and what will I do about it?”