What began with a customer of a Pacific Sunwear (PacSun) store expressing her displeasure on social media, over a t-shirt prominently displayed in the store, has culminated in the t-shirts removal from the company’s website and stores.
The t-shirt in question was from a collection designed by rapper A$AP Rocky and features an upside down American flag. The upside down flag is the traditional sign of dire distress when there is extreme danger to life or property, but that some feel is disrepectful.
A$AP Rocky has gone on record stating, “The reason that those flags are upside down are because our world is upside down. We’re just trying to be understood,” in an interview with Complex.
But others took the t-shirt as a blatant sign of disrespect.
“I understand freedom of speech but this shirt, displayed prominently at the entrance of your store, for Memorial Day weekend is more distasteful and disrespectful than anything I thought I’d see,” Rachel Zawacki-Kuss wrote on Facebook, a post that has since gone viral. “I will not be shopping at PacSun again.”
Of course not all customers felt that way, as one shopper we spoke with was none too pleased.
After arriving at a PacSun Outlet store in Howell, Michigan, store patron Brandon LaVigne attempted to purchase one of the t-shirts in question and was rebuked by store employees.
According to LeVigne, he asked the employee, “So Pac Sun won’t sell me a shirt that you have here, because someone else told you not to? It’s nice you have regard for them. But what about regard for me, who drove all the way here and is standing in front of you with money in hand?”
And while a private business has a right to decide what merchandise it will stock its shelves with, it’s a shame to see a company be pushed around by people blinded by nationalistic fervor and rabid patriotism.
PacSun was quick to respond to the social media firestorm.
“As a retailer grounded in youth culture, PacSun values artistic and creative expression through the brands that we sell in our stores. Out of respect for those who have put their lives on the line for our country, we have decided to stop selling the licensed flag t-shirt and are removing it from our stores and website immediately,” the company posted on Facebook. “We thank the men and women in uniform for their extraordinary service.”
But military veteran Kristen Meghan gave some keen insights into the controversy in an article appearing on TonyStiles.com:
Every person in the U.S. Military takes an Oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, that oath did not mention a flag. I understand many Americans view the U.S. Flag as a symbol of liberty and freedom which is why it is confusing they are not outraged at the dangers affecting individual liberty and freedom. There are so many things occurring at home that disrespect “Liberty and Freedom.” The logic that those who believe this country is in dire need of being resuscitated should somehow be met with threats of violence and met with online pitch forks is flawed. George Orwell once said, “Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them”.
Those people not afraid to hold a flag upside down, a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property are actually displaying the flag as a form nonviolent protest against all things that are a threat to the Constitution. There are many photos online of military personnel, in uniform, holding the flag upside down. Their call for help should not be viewed as disrespect or disgrace, quite the opposite. These veterans acknowledge imminent threats to life and liberty.
Although his t-shirt has been pulled, A$AP Rock stands firm in his conviction that we are a nation in distress and that his shirt is simply a representation of a mental revolution taking place across the U.S.
“We have upside-down American flags. We have camouflage and war gear and sh*t. All of it is a metaphor for what we’re fighting for. We want to show them that we’re all one generation and that things like discrimination shouldn’t exist anymore,” he told Bro Bible.
Thankfully for A$AP Rocky the timing of the controversy couldn’t be better, as he moved up his album release date, just yesterday releasing his highly anticipated sophomore album ‘At.Long.Last.A$AP.’
What is important for people to take away from the controversy surrounding this issue is that the upside down flag isn’t flown as a means of disrespecting the flag, but rather as a sounding of the alarm meant to warn of mortal danger to the nation.
Do you think the upside down flag is a sign of disrespect or rather a clear warning of a nation in extreme distress?
Please share this article to help others gain some valuable perspective on this divisive topic!
Jay Syrmopoulos is an investigative journalist, freethinker, researcher, and ardent opponent of authoritarianism. He is currently a graduate student at University of Denver pursuing a masters in Global Affairs. Jay’s work has previously been published on BenSwann.com and WeAreChange.org. You can follow him on Twitter @sirmetropolis, on Facebook at Sir Metropolis and now on tsu.