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pledge of allegiance painting

I took this picture last October at the Brewery Art Walk in Los Angeles and have thought about it on and off several times. It wasn’t part of any of the studios or galleries, it just hung somewhere on one of the walkways. Since the picture talks of confused identities and allegiances, this location was oddly appropriate, but unfortunately, it also means that I can’t credit the picture appropriately, as I would have liked to.

In the painting we get the American pledge of allegiance stated in the standard English text, but with an Arabic-looking font, and the flags too are confused. The American stars and stripes are superimposed with the Egyptian flag (or is it one of the Syrian flags?), though the symbols in their centre panels are taken over by the text. It is the American pledge of allegiance painted in Arabic colours, literally and figuratively. It is an arresting, thought-provoking image.

As the world draws closer together geographically, and more and more people move across countries, the question of identity becomes increasingly complicated. As someone from India I am personally aware of this, but I can’t imagine how much more complicated it might be for someone from a country that has a difficult political relationship with this one and is undergoing internal upheavals as well. Messy visa issues and volatile situations make it hard for these people to visit their home countries, and their families who are back home can’t come and easily visit them over here either. They sit here and worry about the perils their loved one over there are in, and to make matters worse, their countries often get a negative portrayal in the American media.

It seems like a no-win situation, and yet these people are here, contributing to this society and its economy, participating in its culture, part of its momentum. They have left behind the place of their childhood, the familiar alleyways and faces, language and culture. Coming to America might take away a lot of things, but it evidently also gives them a lot of things, or else they wouldn’t be doing it, or so the argument goes. And yet, there is no denying that it can sometimes be an uneasy peace inside themselves, and a mixed allegiance, where you simultaneously belong to two places, and to neither. And I love how a single picture can capture all of that.

(Thanks to an old-ish wordpress daily prompt for getting me to write this.)

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