By Buddy Early, June 2020 Issue.
There’s something wrong with me.
I’m not talking about my inability to wink or my obsession with people fake-eating hamburgers in television commercials. (Those are well-established quirks and indeed topics for another time.) I’m talking about my reaction to seeing a pickup truck flying a giant American flag six feet above its cab. You see, I don’t see such a thing and think “Now there goes a true American patriot.” Rather, I profile them as a racist, probably sexist, anti-gay, anti-religious freedom, anti-immigrant …
It’s not like I don’t have plenty of valid reasons for making those assumptions — nor is it very likely that I am wrong. If I were to profile the owner of such a truck, I’d guess it is someone who: makes a decent living but certainly is not living high on the hog; lacks considerable education, formal or otherwise; is a bully; knows few people who are gay, black, Latino, Jewish or any other minority (and the ones they do know they do not respect); owns guns that one would never to need to protect oneself against an intruder or shoot wildlife; is gullible; and has never thought much about what the American dream is really all about, only that it implies we are the best country in the world!
Oh, and we’ll put our boot up the ass of anyone who doesn’t agree USA rocks!
*If you are offended or triggered or appalled by the profiling you just read, please send a letter of complaint to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This type of flag-waving typically serves less as a symbol of pride in American values, and more as a warning to anyone who fucks with them and their narrow, misguided view of what makes America great. It’s a dare to anyone who might have a different, more optimistic view of our nation — a dare that is rarely (and shouldn’t be) accepted because to do so means you are against the stars and stripes, apple pie and our founding fathers.
This is how these “patriots” have won. They have successfully branded the flag to represent the white race and Christianity, to represent the owning and aggressive wielding of AK-47s to intimidate, to represent the notion that government and law enforcement should not be criticized.
Their branding of the flag is based on us having more bombs than our neighbors, and not being afraid to use them. It means supporting sending young men and women to die in wars, without question. Their branding of Old Glory has made people like me make assumptions about anyone who displays the flag, even those with sincere intentions. Perhaps that’s some of you reading this. It probably is. It’s not fair.
I suppose this is the part of the column where I state we need to “take back the flag” and “re-brand” it to represent what it really stands for. But the truth is: I’m not particularly patriotic. Never have been. I don’t put my hand over my heart when I hear the national anthem, nor do I sing it. In school, I stood for the Pledge of Allegiance, but I never recited it; I have always found both those things to be really fucked up. And I still do. And I’m certainly not patriotic when it comes to our capitalist economy — which has been perverted from a free market model to one that rewards greed and has led to embarrassing wealth disparity.
There are times I do cheer for the flag (or for American exceptionalism). I am proud when a U.S. athlete brings home gold at the Olympics, a U.S. scientist wins the Nobel, or US Peace Corps volunteers make a different in a third-world country. Basically, it’s no different than how I might wave my college flag.
So, while re-branding the flag may be an idea worth pursuing, I am without a doubt the wrong person to lead that charge. I know, I know — I am a left-wing commie who gives comfort to the enemy. I’ve surely been called worse (dumb, fat, standoffish, Patricia), so commie pig doesn’t faze me.
Still, it shouldn’t be this way. I would love to get a warm feeling when I see our flag. But I’ve simply become so disillusioned by the co-opting of the symbol by hate groups and the illiterate that I’ve moved on. The truth is the American flag should invoke thoughts of everything this country stands for, and I should smile when I see it on display.
But I don’t. To me, the flag should stand for the ability of all people to enjoy equality, the best education, terrific healthcare, and a guarantee of a livable wage. Right now, I don’t see how it stands for any of those things. Someone let me know if that changes.