Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Thoughts on Flag Day

I have always enjoyed looking at the American flag, not because of any particular patriotism, but because I am an American, and I think the flag is attractive. Though hardly a flag-waver (I have never really understood the concept of emotional patriotism, but perhaps that is because I have always seen our nation for what it is--good and bad--rather than the idealized version of it that was crammed down my throat by fake history books and community spokespeople), I used to enjoy seeing the flag flown in public places, or seeing various Americana.

But now the American flag has taken on a different meaning, as people stick two of them on both sides of their SUV's, or fly them on their mailboxes. Now, when I see the American flag, I often get that sick feeling I get when I see the Confederate flag, for the flag has taken on a new meaning since 2001. Now, when I see the American flag displayed on private property, I think of George W. Bush and John Ashcroft; of vitriolic hatred of women, gays, and minorities; and of the fading of my civil liberties.

When I see a Muslim physician or attorney display an American flag in a Yellow Pages ad, I cringe, because I know he feels compelled to scream "I am an American!" in order to retain his clientele.

On Flag Day, we remember that only thirty years ago, a man in Massachusetts was arrested and sentenced to six months in jail because he wore an American flag patch on the seat of his jeans. Yesterday's "desecration" pales compared with today's exploitation.

On Flag Day we acknowledge that even the authentically liberal Dennis Kucinich, for reasons I will never understand, voted for the flag desecration amendment.

On Flag Day, we realize that hundreds of thousands of Americans have no idea that the words "under God" are not part of the real Pledge of Allegiance, but were added during the "red scare," when Communists were the Evil Ones. For my part, I am creeped out by the reciting of any loyalty oath, no matter what phrase you omit.

I do have an enamel flag pin with a peace sign where the stars are supposed to be. Today is a good day for me to wear it.

20 Comments:

Great post!

I must tell you that I have very similar sentiments to your own about our flag.

The flag desecration thing is odd. It isn't as if it's enforced (which is the only good thing about it) unless someone desecrates it in an obvious manner, such as a demonstration or the like. I mean, I see rampant desecration every day, as you said, much worse than a jeans patch! And this, by people who think they come off as patriotic... whatever that means to them (and I'd be afraid it's the new meaning you mentioned, not the old).

When the over-the-top jingoism started its engines the day after 911, I was really freaked out by it. And like you, when I see the flags on SUVs, or mailboxes, or in windows, it gives me pause. Mostly because the flags themselves are nearly ALWAYS dirty and shredded, or faded, etc. Did you know there is actually some rule about where on a vehicle about where you are supposed to hang the flag?? I wish I had it handy. A friend told me once.

In traffic once, I actually glimpsed a flag, reshaped as the slutty mudflap girl, on a Lincoln Navigator. That says so much in itself, doesn't it?

You mention the cringing reaction you get when you see a Muslim professional display a flag in their ad - because you realize they feel they have to, so let me share a similar observation/story:

A Sikh temple resides next door to my apartment building. After 911, it was crazy around here. One day, I came back from the dog park only to find a bomb squad outside & the whole area taped off. They let me in my place, and I videotaped the police walking around, and asked them if they thought the bomb scare was valid (against the Sikh Temple). They said no, but they had to go through the motions.

This was 2 days after 911. Four days after 911, someone drove by and either threw firecrackers or shot at the Temple. I was incensed, but not the least bit surprised. Two days later, around 8 in the evening, all of the members of the temple were lined up along the busy street out front holding candles and waving American Flags, and a huge flag was draped on the front of the temple. That Sunday, a local alderman held a press conference and spoke at the temple and all of us neighborhood people came to listen. The Sikhs were passing out literature to any car that would stop and every passer-by that explained their religion and their beliefs.

It was so sad to me how far they had to go just to make sure they weren't attacked. It also made my blood boil. Especially because the stupid people terrorising them didn't even have enough sense to know they weren't even muslim, or arab, and that's obviously who they thought they were targeting (not that muslims should be attacked - just that these people obviously thought so). It was probably enough to the perpetrators of the firecrackers/bullets/bombscare that the Sikhs wear turbans.

And I'm sure they didn't know the Sikhs are from India. Maybe it didn't matter anyway. After 911, the flag-waving seemed synonimous with a new and intense hate and fear of other countries.

I honestly would like to do away with all flags, all national identity, because it seems to really screw things up. It seems to create walls where none should be.

Wear your peace pin!

By Blogger Unknown, at 1:11 PM  

There is nothing to enforce. The flag desecration amendment has never passed. But I still expect it to.

One of the first tragedies to occur following the massive tragedy of Sept. 11 was the murder of a Sikh man by an "Amurican" who saw a "towelhead" and fired away. That man received the death penalty for his crime.

By Blogger Diane, at 1:31 PM  

Well said, DED. I feel the same, and I loved the flag, too, because it is beautiful and the symbolism appropriate (stars-n-stripes, that is), and for other ingrained reasons that I am unclear about. But now I'm annoyed or saddened or disgusted to see the flag, because it (mis)represents so much, the greed, arrogance, disregard of this madministration. I worry so much now how long it will take us to apologize to the world and to prove our "goodness" once again. The flags have gone up for flag day, but I just feel sad for how far we've fallen.

Helen Wheels, flag etiquette here.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:49 PM  

Thank you for Flag Etiquette, AE! That will come in handy.

:)

By Blogger Unknown, at 4:19 PM  

[[ghhhhhccccxx32222222222 (whoops, sorry---kitten written comments there) I love our flag. I once swore that it would always fly from our porch. Liberal friends expressed surprise and we would stubbornly state that the flag stands for America...not for conservatism. On 9/11 I was very sad to see how few flags flew from homes...how few people even owned a flag! As bright new flags went up in the weeks that followed and countries across the globe expressed their outrage and support, I thought perhaps that was one good thing to come from the sacrifice.

And about a year and half later, I put my flag away. It flies this week for Flag Day, but then we will sadly put her away until July 4th, and our Earth flag will fly alone. I once swore that I would never let anyone steal my flag from me. That it is an American Flag not a conservative flag. Yet after awhile we realized even the Earth flag flying beside her might not be powerful enough to temper the impression that we supported what our government wrought.

So she is sheltered in a closet except on patriotic holidays. And the Earth flag flies alone.\

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