Flag Fantasy

We took a different route on our dog walk tonight. We usually walk the same way, the same distance, but we were strapped for time and cut off a street earlier than we usually do. On our nightly walks, we see a number of houses with American flags. Some of the houses have two US flags. Some of them have US flags and flag banners. And tonight we saw a house with light strips under the eaves over their garages. The light strips alternated between red, white, and blue.

Red, white, and blue palooza

In the past five years, I have seen more flags (US, Donald Trump, Blue Lives Matter, Don’t Tread On Me, Confederate, etc.) and patriotic displays than I saw in total for the 48 previous years of my life. I can’t drive anywhere without seeing at least one pick up truck, its bed filled with between 2-4 flags in any combination of the choices listed above. My response is the same every time. I shake my head.

Displaying your patriotism is a good thing. I think a home should fly the American flag on each and every federal holiday, the way people used to when I was a kid. On July 4th, it’s completely appropriate to festoon your house with all manner of flag paraphernalia. If you’re hosting a holiday barbecue on the 4th, by all means, put out paper plates and napkins emblazoned with the flag. Wear the flag all over your body. Eat red, white, and blue jello. Whatever floats your boat. On the nation’s birthday, it makes sense to throw an over-the-top birthday party. Every American should also visit a cemetery and place flags on Memorial Day and Veterans Day. We should make an effort to remember and honor those who fought and died safeguarding our freedoms. It’s part of being a good citizen and recognizing with gratitude the privilege of living here.

I just don’t understand why suddenly some people feel the need to go overboard. Is there some sort of competition I missed a memo on? Like if you fly just one American flag at your house, you’re not as American as the guy next door flying two flags? If you have two American flags in the bed of your truck, you’re not as American as the guy with four flags flapping their way, tattered to shreds, down the highway? If your neighbor has a flag up and you put up light strips that cycle through the red, white, and blue all night long, you clearly must be more patriotic, right? This is the only rationale I can discern for this behavior. It appears to be all about one-upmanship and a prideful sense of superiority.

We fly the American flag here at our house on federal holidays and sometimes just because we feel like it. The rest of the time we fly our Colorado flag. This past June we flew our pride flag. I’m certain there are people who feel our displays are not enough (or, in the case of the pride flag, are perhaps too much). But it’s not up to anyone else to judge our level of patriotism. Patriotism isn’t determined by how many flags you fly or where you fly them or how tall your damn flag pole is. Honestly, the constant flag waving by my neighbors doesn’t make me feel less patriotic, nor does it impress me that they are more patriotic. It’s just flag waving. Patriotism isn’t about the flag. It’s about loving your country through the good and the bad. It’s about striving to become a more perfect union, not saying that we are already perfect. Flying multiple flags doesn’t mean you’ve cornered the market on being American. It just means you spent more money on flags. While I’m not a constitutional scholar, I don’t believe there is anything in that amazing document that says you aren’t American if you don’t have an American flag flying in your truck bed.

I know it’s your right to fly as many flags as you want. It is a free country, after all. I just want you to know that I don’t for one second believe you are a better, more worthy, or more honorable or patriotic American than I am. If all your flags make you feel more secure about that, though, knock yourself out.

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