Saturday, July 3, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different

I've decided to go trawling through the archives for an older piece.  By now fairly dated, but I think it holds up well.  If nothing else, consider it a mental snapshot, a picture of the Stuff Inside My Head seven years and one day ago.

I Have a Flag

I committed a cardinal sin last Christmas; I disappointed my wife. Oh, don't get me wrong. She loved everything she got. It was the gift she gave that disappointed her.

You see, my wife gave me a flag, a star spangled beauty in all its Old Glory, given with love and an understanding of just how long all those miles between Home and Back Home have grown. She moved heaven and earth to find it and shelled out a fair amount of cash to make it mine. And how did I react? I'm not quite sure, but I think my exact words were "Oh. Thanks."

Now, not all that long ago, I was flag hunting myself. Symbols can comfort in times of crisis, and in the wake of That September, I remember feeling so completely isolated, so far from home and helpless. I sat here just like everyone else, but while my neighbours watched an international tragedy unfold, I witnessed a very personal attack on Who We Are.

I remember the intense pride I felt for my countrymen, for their strength and perseverance in the face of disaster. I remember being moved to tears by the international show of support, an especially poignant rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone from the bleachers in Liverpool, and I remember, for reasons I still can't articulate, a need to publicly display the depth of that feeling, the pride and the pain. So I set off to find a flag.

It turns out I wasn't so alone after all.  Back home, flags flew off the shelves and they were a good deal rarer here. So I went without in the short term, and as the days turned to weeks and history unfolded, my sense of patriotic exhibitionism began to wane. In fact, it wasn't long before I was happy enough for the distance.

Which leads us to today. On this side of the Atlantic, it's just another Friday, but over there...

Over there it's Independence Day, a day set aside to celebrate baseball, Coke in green bottles, V8 engines, John Wayne, Motown, hot dogs, and a mythical army of rebels in powdered wigs who made their mark by telling King George to piss off. 

This is the 4th of July. . . and I have a flag.

I pulled it out today, a tightly folded triangle of stars on a field of blue. I stared at it, thinking of my fellow Americans who made me so proud not so long ago. 

I wish I still felt that way.

Politics and foreign policy are topics for another day, but like so many viewing the U.S.from the outside, I find the current trends disturbing.  More disturbing still is the broad support these policies have found.

I have a flag, a gift from my wife, and I love her for her thoughtfulness.  I love my country too, love it dearly, and as much as I would love to shout that love from the rooftops today, I won't.  I know that what is intended as a show of love and affection will be seen as support and approval.

I put the flag away, for now at least, and wait for the day I can celebrate not just Who We Are, but What We Do.

Back to the here and now: I still have the flag, and it's found a permanent home in my son's bedroom alongside the tricolours.  It seems like a fitting display.