Then came the sixties, with Viet Nam and the populist movement that highlighted issues about race, gender and the environment. Heady stuff when Richard Nixon creates the EPA. And still we waved (or wore) our flag proudly.
(An aside to younger readers. The occasional TV special does little to evoke the energy of that 1960s populist movement. Since then we seem to have traveled ever-further down the path of Huxley's 1984, with today's corporate media as our soma.)
As Carl Rove and the Republicans prepare for re-election this fall, we should be ready for "swift-boating and flag waving." Consistent with this our congress wasted itself last week on an amendment to ban flag-burning. And then it hits me - the full impact of my strained relationship with our flag. I don't love our flag anymore.
But wait, it's not the flag. Old Glory has been usurped by politicians and stood on its proverbial head. What used to stand for freedom and justice now stands for lying, torture, aggression and oppression.
It may have started with Johnson, or maybe Reagan, but as those so-called leaders became more and more enamored of corporatism and militarism, I lost my love for the flag. For me, it now belonged to "them," and while I might not be sure who "them" was, I was sure it was not we, the people.
The cynicism has hardly abated in more recent times. Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43 all notable failures in protecting the rights, jobs and quality of life of their citizenry. The biggest difference between those three men is how blatantly they pursue fascist policies. BushCo seemed oblivious to the impact of their policies until recently, when their poll numbers started tanking.
There it is then. Just as these "infidels" have usurped the rights of our people and our democracy for corporate interests, they've usurped our flag. It's been a constant shield for them. Critics are "un-American." Pacifists are un-American. Muslims, Blacks, Latinos, Gays all un-American as hell. Just ask Falwell or one of his clones.
* * * * *
Now I'm pissed. There's no one less deserving of the "flag as shield" than the current administration in Washington. No one less worthy to use our flag as a backdrop. No one less true to the real ideals that our flag stands for. Their moral bankruptcy knows no bounds. They are utterly currupt.
So I'm taking our flag back - into my heart. I'm no longer going to let those bastards claim an association of Neocon and flag without noticing the trap. It's like 9/11 and Iraq, a PR association with no truth.
"Rally 'round the flag" is an old adage and a fabulous idea for people of true heart but of different opinions. We can disagree about a host of issues, but if we share the same real American ideals (like truth and justice), we'll figure out a way, an honest way, to work out our differences.
A popular bumper sticker claims "these colors don't run," presumably a sentiment that suggests American imperialism is always warranted, that we should stay in Iraq, welcome or not, until the end of the world. How about a slight modification: "These colors don't lie, cheat, torture or smear if you do, you forfeit your right to them."
How do you think the current administration and congress would hold up? How many lapel pins would disappear from these corrupt politicians? How many cable news outlets would be impacted?
It's OUR flag, folks. The flag of the American people. It's time for New Glory. Help take it back, and help get rid of the jerks who have torn the ideals of the American Flag to shreds.