Cross-Posted from DailyKos
Today is Flag Day. A fine day to be an American. A day when we remember and honor the Grand Old Flag, the High Flyin’ Flag, here in the Home of the Brave and the Free.
Let’s reflect a while on the emblem of the land I love.
Thirteen equal horizontal stripes of red alternating with white.
Blue rectangle in the upper left corner bearing fifty white five-pointed stars.
That’s it, though Wikipedia does list an amazing array of flag-ritual related stuff.
Why does it evoke such emotion in us? Everything from pride to annoyance, from anger to devotion. Sometimes, all from the same person.
Simply put, the flag is an identifier. Americans can point to it, sometimes in unfriendly places, and say “that’s a familiar face, that’s somewhere they’ll speak my language.”
So much more than that is bound up in this simple scrap of fabric, though. Witness the recent spate of flag-emblazoning, everything from cars to houses to bicepses, Old Glory has become the Smiley Face of this age. Ubiquitous, unquestioning, it is what it is and that’s that.
Let me back up a little and state that I love this country. I love the United States of America. I cry when I hear Ray Charles sing America the Beautiful. I stand and sing the National Anthem. I mean it. You won’t find a single flag decal on my car, though, or a flag flying at my house, even though I consider myself a patriot. Yes, dammit, I’m patriotic. I love this country, and I’ll fight for it.
The definition of Patriotism is simple.
The definition of Nationalism is something else again.
1)love of country and willingness to sacrifice for it [syn: patriotism]
2)the doctrine that your national culture and interests are superior to any other [ant: multiculturalism, internationalism]
3)the aspiration for national independence felt by people under foreign domination
4)the doctrine that nations should act independently (rather than collectively) to attain their goals [ant: internationalism]
Similar in the first definition, but that’s about it. Along the lines of Nationalism, we come to the Team Spirit, the fervor, the flag-waving “we’re number one!” mentality, the Jingoism.
Wikipedia, (such a marvelous resource, really) has a great entry on jingoism, the gist of which is summed up by a graphic of an eagle with wings spread across half the globe.
I really cannot think of a better term for the current misuse of our flag than that. Chauvinistic patriotism. We’re Number One! We’re all on the same team, the winning team, and the rest of you suck! You’re with us or against us!
Jingoism is part of the magnetic ribbon craze, too. It’s an identifier. Support our troops with a three-dollar magnetic piece of plastic that was likely made in China or Taiwan. Get into a pissing contest with your neighbors over who can fit the most onto their bumper. (Clue-the one with the biggest gas-guzzling SUV wins!) Look suspiciously on anyone who doesn’t have at least one, preferably two. For adding extra purpose to the ribbon magnet, turn it on its side so it looks like a Jesus fish! (And that way, you can fit MORE of them on your car!) Coordinates especially well with that brand-new “W” sticker that you bought after election day.
I am sick with anger, rage, disappointment. The country that I love, the United States of America, has fallen upon dark times. All that I love about it is being systematically destroyed in nationalistic fervor, while the jingoists in this country paste decals and flagpoles on their cars and think us unpatriotic for mourning what we have become. With us or against us. On our team, or the enemy. Black and white, pure and simple.
Life has never been that simple, that clear-cut, and one great quality that I have ever loved about this land is its capacity to harbor, even to nurture nuance and diversity. Everyone gets an even shake, right? No more. We all have equal rights, don’t we? No more. My heart breaks for this land, for the people who stand on corners waving their flags, giving no thought to the blood that was shed to bring us to this place, the blood of Americans, Native and imported, of Englishmen, of Germans and Japanese and Spanish and French and Iraqi.
My heart breaks for this country, while the administration rails on about how much we need Guantanamo Bay, how we must spread democracy, how we must reform the United Nations without a thought for the needs of the poor, of the sick, of the huddled masses here at home, who are yearning to breathe free, free of pollution, free of illness, free of fear and discrimination and hatred.
I love this country yet, I love it with all my heart, but I know well and truly that it is no longer the home of the free and the brave. It is no longer a beacon of freedom for the world. It is no longer Liberty Enlightening the World, but is becoming Nationalism Running Rampant across the Downtrodden, both domestic and abroad. Lady Liberty weeps, the flag grows jaded and tattered, and I grieve.
What so proudly we hailed
At the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars
through the perilous fight
O’er the ramparts we watched
Were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare
The bombs bursting in air
Gave proof through the night
That our flag was still there
Oh say, does that star spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave?
It is a question, after all. Perhaps the answer will someday be yes.