With the arrival of the July 4th weekend, most people will undoubtedly be putting out their fresh, bright, somewhat new (used twice a year), American flags. I, on the other hand, am sitting here at my desk contemplating what to fly in the place of our old, washed-out, beat-up, tattered one.
It was not my decision to fly the flag in the first place, but rather my husband’s, who I am sure at the time had his reasons. He is by no means a blind believer that America stands for all things “righteous,” or that we are even a truly “free” society; and yet, that flag does hold a special place for him.
Decades ago, while I stood in kindergarten reciting the pledge like a zombie child, hand over heart as the meaningless words spilled out of my mouth, Mike had a much different experience. On the day he was naturalized (which I literally just typed “nationalized”–talk about a Freudian slip), he stood waving the American flag, proudly proclaiming, “I am an American boy.”
While I always thought that story was “cute” when my in-laws recited it, the older I get, the more I have come to deplore certain things–like the fact that society’s standards deem it perfectly natural for a child to pledge their allegiance to a piece of cloth. Yes, I understand that technically you’re pledging your allegiance to what that flag represents, but try explaining that to a five-year-old; or better yet, broaden your horizons and ask a Palestinian, Iraqi, Afghani or Yemeni (or pretty much any person of middle-eastern descent), what the American flag represents to them.
I think quite possibly the most ridiculous fairytale our politicians try to sell is that our flag still represents “freedom”– freedom to do all of those things that our forefathers ever so thoughtfully laid out for us in the Bill of Rights, things like the right to peacefully assemble. As someone who was arrested last year with a group of Veterans for peacefully protesting war in NYC, excuse me while I say, “horseshit.” As a matter of fact, ask anyone who has been arrested, taken a baton to the back of the legs or a teargas canister to the head about our right to protest in this country–and don’t even get me started on “Free Speech Zones.”
Earlier this week, I sat in Carnegie Hall listening to Glenn Greenwald speak about Edward Snowden and the even broader war the government has waged on our “freedoms.” As he discussed some of the ridiculous arguments Americans make in order to justify their own government spying on them, I found myself shaking my head in agreement on more than one occasion, especially when he said the one thing that always manages to send me into a tailspin: the notion that if you are not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.
I promise you that most of the assholes who spout this nonsense will be the ones waving their flags the loudest this weekend, completely oblivious to what the word “freedom” even means, or the principles which “Old Glory” initially represented.
I could go on and on about the pure brilliance with which Greenwald broke that argument down, piece by piece, before completely knocking it out of the park, but my limited command of the English language could never truly do it justice. I will, however, say that anyone who believes that nonsense lives in a world in which I want no part. I would much rather burn the flag than blindly worship it. Anyone have a light?
Author: Cynthia Cone is a heavily tattooed Ex-Con with no college education and very bad punctuation. She currently lives on Long Island, NY where she pays extremely high taxes, likes to drink, rage against the machine and shop at the GAP.
Contact Cynthia at firstname.lastname@example.org