Thursday, June 21, 2007

I want to burn all car window flags, and maybe the cars and people attached to them too. It was one thing to visit my parents in Flint during the NHL playoffs a few years ago and see every third car adorned with a Red Wings flag. Then they spread to every town and sport, as the official emblem of the bandwagoning fan. But, what is with having American car window flags? If you have one of these, I would appreciate it if you'd let me know what bandwagon you're jumping on. The Olympics have lost some of their lustre, but did i manage to miss one completely? What are we supposed to be cheering for? Did we win something recently? Is this about the war? Are we winning that? Is there another war I don't know about where intelligent, well prepared, honest, and measured leadership is bringing us victory along with worldwide appreciation and even adoration?
I have never understood the place of the flag in the American imagination. Actually, I understand it but refuse to admit it. I don't want to think so badly of my fellow citizens. A flag, regardless of which one, is a colorful piece of cloth or new hightech sail fabric or paper or plastic wrap. Period. Neither George Washington or Abraham Lincoln were reincarnated as a flag. The flag didn't register voters in Alabama, kill a single person at Mai Lai, hold it's fire till it saw the whites of their eyes, liberate Buchenwald, dance at the Savoy Ballroom, celebrate the Miracle on Ice, or jump out of a building on October 24, 1929. And your dad, grandad, Latino boy toy (unlike Ken Burns, I am prepared to recognize the Latino community), or doorman didn't die for the flag. Soldiers don't fight for a flag. It's a flag for God sakes. It's a symbol. It has no significance of it's own. Just like Rosa Parks, it's role and impact are completely distorted and over hyped. It's a symbol. It's importance comes only through what it symbolizes. The American flag symbolizes the Revolutionary War, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the right to vote, and, yes, soldiers who have fought and died for the country--but only along with every other American who has sacrificed something for this country or for that matter just breathed in air while possessing an American passport. These things, and many more that are unmentioned, are what is important and what should be protected. The flag is just a pretty thing. A pretty symbol. A pretty symbol that can be burned, stepped on, torn, used as toilet paper, thrown in a wood chipper, or used as part of a homemade slip n' slide. Besides, not allowing the destruction of this symbol as a form of protest contradicts and undermines some of the most important ideas, institutions, and experiences which give the flag meaning in the first place.
So, I'm not predisposed to look kindly on overly enthusiastic flag waving. And then when we're involved in such a fiasco of a war, it seems especially inappropriate to act as if said war is really a sporting event. I know people packed picnic baskets and went out to watch some Civil War battles, but that seems a bit different. If you want to pack a picnic basket and head off for Baghdad, though, do be my guest. Plus, there are people who think they are fulfilling some patriotic duty by flying the flag. If you want to be a patriot, try voting, working in a campaign, asserting your beliefs in some forum, even if it is only a neighborhood barbecue. If you want to root for something, try football.

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