Nevertheless, I love that flag

Tuesday I put out our flag for the rest of the week and through Sunday. What a glorious sight, the red, white and blue against the green of the oak tree and the clear blue sky. It is doubtful that I will ever tire of seeing our country’s flag hoisted aloft into the breeze.

I wonder, though, how the sight of our nation’s symbol could have taken on such a distaste for me following 9/11 when one could find it plastered everywhere. Oh, how I wish the flag had been displayed out of a sense of patriotism. But the patriots I knew weren’t brandishing the flag anywhere and everywhere. Instead, I perceived the flag’s being displayed out of a selfish vengeance, out of a “you-can’t-do-that-to-us because we are the leader of the free world” mentality. People seemed to be in a mood to form a posse rather than ask any critical questions about why such a thing as the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon could have happened. Everywhere you looked, God was being asked to bless our sense of outrage.

Afghanistan I could understand, sort of. But it is a mystery as to why we didn’t listen to other countries prior to starting the Iraq war. We have a couple of buildings knocked down and go absolutely nuts. Those who have had thousands of buildings bombed and destroyed, have had hundreds of thousands of their civilians killed, have invaded and been invaded, have occupied and been occupied, were simply blown off as being unaware of the dangers of today’s world. Who turned out to be the ones unaware? We acted like a spoiled person of privilege who might think it appropriate to burn down a neighbor’s house full of people because one of their kids did a lawn job on some new zoysia. No understanding, no proportionality, no seeking of advice, just thoughtless revenge and indifference to what might follow.

How did we get into this? I’m reminded of a quote from Bruce Catton’s This Hallowed Ground as the drumbeat to war was unfolding in the 1850s:

There is a rowdy strain in American life, living close to the surface but running very deep. Like an ape behind a mask, it can display itself suddenly with terrifying effect. It is slack-jawed, with leering eyes and loose wet lips, with heavy feet and ponderous cunning hands; now and then, when something tickles it, it guffaws, and when it is made angry it snarls; and it can be aroused much more easily than it can be quieted. … and when it comes lumbering forth it can make the whole country step in time to its own frantic irregular pulse-beat.

History has quite a sense of humor to have all this going on at a time when the Oval Office is devoid of any wisdom or sensibilities. Meanwhile, the Congress simply nods away as though mindless of all that America had stood for up to that date in 2001. Here we sit in 2008 with an energy crisis and no plan, the economy is tanking, real wages are in decline for those most in need.  We have a reputation as a torturer and invader of sovereign nations without provocation, as a killer of thousands of innocents because we are worried about our gluttonous need for oil. We have a government willing to spy on its own citizens. It seems that anything goes unless it is for the common good of either our own citizens or those of other nations.

To me, patriotism is loving our country enough to expect more than we are currently getting out of our national leaders. Thinking everything the government does is wonderful isn’t patriotism, it’s just being lazy, uninformed, and afraid to think about our responsibilities in the world. There has to be a better way for us to share our space on this planet. It seems, however, that we’d rather seal the borders … except for unloading oil tankers or shipping stuff to China … and tell the rest of the world what to do while not realizing we have lost our voice.

Nevertheless, I love that flag and all that it has stood for and can stand for. This time will pass, but we will be damned lucky if we escape the foolishness of these past eight years.

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