Flagging Relief

    I've never quite gotten the flag, and growing up, I thought that was part of the point. Didn't everyone else sit through history class and learn how country after country had followed jingoistic rhetoric, crass manipulative symbolism and other tricks of the trade to go get slaughtered? I once read the final chapter to "Johnny Got His Gun" on air - at one point, that was required reading, no?

    Civil War - they took picnic baskets out to Virginia to watch the fighting and came back in panic and horror. World War I - it'll be over in a few months, boys will be proud - except for the several million bodies left in trenches over the next 3 years. Gulf War 2 - they'll greet us with flowers, it'll pay for itself, over in a few months (except our 2nd longest official war, side by side with Afghanistan). And the other sides in all these conflicts said much the same thing.

    The flag doesn't honor the troops so much as invests us in the system - only partly about military, but fealty to the local feudal lord and his waving standard was only partly about defending the castle in times of attack, and much about observing his rights to part of the crops, ownership of the land, occasionally taking up the "First Night" option with fresh brides, and so on.

    Sure there are times in military and other settings where the flag will bring lumps to my throat - raising it at Iwo Jima, an occasional outstanding performance at the Olympics (too many by the US to feel special), flag on the moon.

    But the flag serves us, not the other way around. It's an ornament that fits the occasion, a garnish, a candle on a birthday cake.

    A tattered up Union Jack sewn into clothes also became an emblem of the punk movement, the Sex Pistols, Vivienne Westwood, concerts at Wembley... and The Queen! (we mean it, man)

    Similarly, our 4th of July is just another place to wave the flag - baseball, hot dogs, souped up cars, the Thanksgiving Parade...

    The flag does not belong to the military. Appreciative as I may be of American soldiers (moreso in our non-frivolous war efforts, sympathetic in our wasteful exploits), we are not an extension of the military by being an American civilian. If I wave a flag or put it on a bumper or book or jacket, it's my right to decide what the flag means in my context - I have not signed on to a single "support the troops" or "America right or wrong" definition, however much the Sarah Palin or Spiro Agnew words still ripple through our subconscious.

    America and its flag are symbols of both great achievements and great atrocities. I can appreciate George C. Marshall and the creative inventions of immigrant Nikola Tesla and the self-made rags-to-riches media empire of Oprah Winfrey and the harsh realities & perceived necessities of Oppenheimer's bomb, at the same time as I curse Andrew Jackson and the persecutions of McCarthy and the post-9/11 Bush-led meltdown of ethics and self-respect and common sense. And the much larger bubble in-between, the enterprising but ethically challenged Ray Kroch who created the McDonalds empire on a broken contract, or Westinghouse who used Tesla's generosity and then abandoned him, or Steve Jobs who borrowed heavily from others while playing hardball with anyone he perceived as a threat, but still building the richest company in the world with a great deal of customer devotion for quality (and a crass devotion to avoiding paying taxes).

    There's the flag in our continued domination of Latin America, and the flag in our support (sometimes tenuous) of the UN, and there's the historical contradiction of our flag that once sought to dominate Mexico, stealing 1/3 of its territory, the immigrant-welcoming symbolism of the Statue of Liberty (gifted by the Freedom Fries-loving French) and our current build-a-wall/fence/wider river stance that now looks to set boundaries on what was once revered in the cowboy's open range with room to grow and opportunity for all - Don't Fence Me In.

    I also see in this flag an ideal of the crusaders - the Martin Luther King who upheld the idea of an all-serving ethic despite attempts to co-opt the flag for whites-only, the Jonas Salks and many like him who worked countless years trying to come up with cures or looking after the disabled and diseased and dying to provide comfort, or union workers who fought to end sweatshops and child labor and bring a working wage to common folk despite the many documented cases of corruption within their midst, JFK's Peace Corps which codified an effort and sentiment to help others outside our borders.

    The flag belongs as much to the hippie protester trying to stop the Vietnam War as it does to the soldiers shipped off their willingly or unwillingly.

    If there's an actual symbolism in the US flag, it's in the contrast between red and white stripes with the occasional bright points of stars - the stripes alternating the bloody interventions that have taken up 9/10th of our history, alternated with our peaceful efforts and attempts to create a humanitarian ethic. They don't blend in the flag - it's a violent mood swing from one to the other, 12 times a pivot in an imperfect scale that we can't get right, that never resolves.

    We've had long drawn out fights here about the Confederate flag for which I see both (or more?) sides. Despite its mostly non-malicious fashion and cultural usage especially in the 70's, still, in the end, people in 2016 are hurt by its larger historical and current use in more hateful and abusive ways, and our behavior & understanding adapt in the same way as we kiss goodbye to the days of speeding down the highway in the back of pickups and riding without seat belts - all good fun until someone puts an eye out or ends up in the morgue.

    So here we have another American dispute about the flag, how not standing for a jingoist 1812 anthem is worse than sending soldiers out to get maimed and killed in a poorly planned adventure in the Midast, how "support the troops" as an ever-present obligation that's more important than supporting the common black citizen who year after fucking year is still suffering the same indignities, brutalities and lack of opportunity that plagued them ever since they were supposedly freed in 1865, that a sporting event is the place to exhibit national pride along with corporate subservience to the companies whose names emblazon the stadiums along with the military contractors who've brought weapons and drones intended for the Mideast into our local communities as paramilitary supplies for police who now can't separate policing from soldiering, with calamitous results.

    We've been trying to tell the good story since Dickens wrote his Christmas Carol, and in movies like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Miracle on 34th Street - the triumph of good will over crass business & militaristic efforts. But somehow we never take it to heart - we still like our in-your-face, smashball, Saving Private Ryan over Albert Schweitzer. Once long ago, baseball was the next horizon, with Jackie Robinson extending post-WWII integration of soldiers into our team sports, and Curt Flood breaking the exploitive indebted-for-life system that plagued both sports and the movie industry. But now we're back to Calvin Coolidge's ideal - "the business of America is business" - don't make waves, maintain the corporate team's bottom line.

    Kate Upton is a symbol of jiggly wholesome girl-next-door attraction who has reaped great benefits from just being cute and photogenic. Kid Rock is at times a great musician and a weird hybrid amalgam of Detroit Rock City-Southern rebelliousness tied to establishment conservative-branded "patriotism" and a stubborn tonedeaf ear and insulting attitude to those he deliberately affronts. Neither has much invested in the military side of things, nor in the travails of black folks in the street and prisons (though Kid's black drummer Stefanie Eulinberg is another tribute to his contradictory nature). 

    But here we are, discussing kneeling vs. standing, as if kneeling itself isn't a contrast in itself - a sign of obeisance as well as of the current outrage, that of non-participation. But with all the bad boys of sports, the at-one-time rebellious long-haired Oakland A's, the dog-fighting Michael Vick, the steroids-taking Canseco, the often arrested and profligate boxers like Spinks & Tyson, fighting Ty Cobb/drunken Babe Ruth, et al.

    Why do we particularly care, and why isn't doing what's important vs. that which is purely symbolic the thing on people's minds? All through the 60's, "hurt feelings" often took precedence over beaten bodies and beaten wills and still chained-up opportunity. We managed to make some progress as the rise of the black middle class testifies to, but still have huge recalcitrant problems as our incarceration rates and police brutality show (with bigger problems of everyday discrimination and non-acceptance that aren't so easy to demonstrate and fight against).

    If a flag is a symbol and kneeling is a symbol, which one has priority, especially on the symbolic pseudo-militaristic turf of a sports stadium? While I don't take sports particularly serious, apparently lots of people do - and where else should one protest to change the minds and attitudes of millions? Why is it that a country built on the principle of rebellion and self-determination is so often antagonistic to any sign of rebelliousness and individuality? Where does our myth-making actually meet reality? It reminds me of a square-dance, where you don't quite meet your partner and resolve in embrace, but instead spin each other around without ever getting anywhere. Welcome to America's 21st Century do-se-do - and The Flag!


    Excellent post. Kid Rock's recently said to an audience at one of his concerts "f**k Colin Kaepernick. Rock thinks Kaepernick disrespects the flag but has no problem flying the Confederate flag during his concerts, forgetting that that flag was in opposition to the US flag. Kid Rock can have an expression of free speech, but Colin Kaepernick can't.


    Francis Scott Key, the author of the "Star-Spangled Banner" supported slavery. Key was very upset that black British Marines were part of the navy that held him captive in Maryland for several days.

    Key wished death to those men and to slaves. The third stanza includes

    No refuge could save the hireling or slave
    From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
    And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!




    Coyote Blog points out the irony that dissent makes these meaningless rituals have more meaning. Who'da thunk it?

    On July 4th we- particularly Mrs. Flavius-wave flags. Figuratively and a little literally.  And honor the people who have sacrificed to keep it in existence. And died.

    This is ,now, a good- enough country. Wish it were better but it is better now than it used to be. And that's something. On the 4th we honor whatever's good about it now and the fact that it has been- slowly- improving. That should be encouraged -you don't speed up a marathoner by shouting she's  too slow.

    365 days a year we admire those protestors who choose not to stand.And say so.

    As for comparisons with the rest of the world,  mostly they're a diversion.  We have to make our garden grow 

    Well written, Peracles.  I suppose the anger at sports figures deciding to protest the anthem was predictable and, as usual, it's predictably misplaced.  If you want your athletes to stand enthusiastically for the flag and anthem, make a better country for them to live in.

    I don't know if that's quite it. There will never be a perfect country or perfect response. Just adapt.

    To me... not playing along with the flag/anthem masquerade is adaptation.  Anyone who doesn't like it can help their heroes fix it.

    I should say that this is a well crafted piece of writing. Congratulations.


    You gotta admit it's getting better.

     Lot's of things are bad. But better than they once were. Blacks didn't have to wrestle with whether to stand during the national anthem in 1920. They weren't on the field.

    I won't go on. You've had your say. Well done. I only agree in part but I admire all of it.


    Not quite sure who said "You gotta admit it's getting better." or who that refers to. In the long run I'm an optimist, even though as Keynes notes in the long run we're all dead anyway.


    Oh. my. god.  I almost feel embarrassed for him.

    Brooks is more interested in "order" rather than justice. Taking a knee disrupts the "natural" flow of things.If only Kaepernick wouldn't take a knee, we would all be working together to solve our social ills. Kaepernick is the problem, not the people supporting politicians who block programs aimed at improving the situation.Brooks, and many others believe that if only we didn't bring attention to problems, we could solve the problems we ignore or dismiss.

    When Michael Brown's autopsy was released, the response was to focus on the fact that the autopsy could not prove that his hands were raised. The focus was on the phrase "Hands Up Don't shoot" as a fallacy. The police abuse and the use of black citizens as an ATM was ignored. When Freddie Gray died in a police van, the response was that the police officers did not engage in criminal activity, not the police abuse noted in the DOJ report. Objections to the police abuse in Ferguson and Baltimore had been raised peacefully. Those objections were ignored. Kaepernick 's protest will be ignored by people like Brooks who find no reason to detail what changes he thinks should occur and how he thinks change should be accomplished. Brooks just says Kaepernick is the problem

    Brooks should read King's "Letter From a Birmingham Jail". The message is the moderate whites who want order over justice are the problem.

    I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.”

    Yeah, there's also the tendency here to meet every complaint from a black person with, "don't register your dissatisfaction like that!"  Yes, let's not talk about your grievances, let's talk about how to can acceptably talk about your grievances instead.  By the way, there is no acceptable way for you to talk about your grievances, sorry!

    I thought about that 'kneeling thing'.

    How the hell do you attack kneeling?

    The fist in the air thingy, now that is monumental.


    But the team spirit comes into play.

    The right says: but these bastards make tens of millions?

    Do the Wallstreeters begin their day singing God Bless America?

    This is so well done Peracles, I commend you.

    Latest Comments