June 4th, 2011 13:10 EST
Old Glory is Disgraced By People Who Use to Bully Other Americans
A recent kerfuffle on Facebook about my respect for the American flag has prompted some introspection. I posted a picture of my flag hanging limply over a blossoming azalea plant. A few people gave the innocuous picture a routine thumbs up, a gesture of friendship. But two readers said the flag represented evil. One of them reminded me that America had engaged in more than 70 military adventures since World War II and constituted a global menace.
I had the predictable knee-jerk reaction. Shame on you, I messaged my complainant. A guy photographs his beloved country`s flag and you get all snarky with him!
He isn`t going to prompt in me any reconsideration of my love of Old Glory. But as the days wore on and as Memorial Day approached I fretted about the uses to which our flag has been put, and unless I`m just an old coot who effuses about the good old times, it does seem to me that lately some of us are using the flag to get in other Americans` faces, to suggest that other Americans are not quite as American or as patriotic as we are. I suppose it`s a game of my patriotism is bigger, more genuine than yours. But I find the use of the flag for political and ideological scapegoating loathsome.
I regard this as a vile misuse of the flag, a disgrace, worse than burning it in protest, worse even than spitting on it. We haven`t fought under this flag for so many years to assert the right to bully fellow Americans, to tell them what to think and how to behave, to define Americanism for them.
In the wake of 9/11 it seems to me a certain belligerence lurked behind all the flag waving, all those yellow ribbons and support-the-troops stickers. We did rally around the flag. It was predictable, and I was proud to join the rally. But in time I felt a certain politicization setting in, a storm trooper mentality. If you didn`t agree with Bush-Cheney you weren`t a patriot. If you dared to think that mass violence might not be the only response to a just cause you weren`t American.
We were using the flag and those yellow ribbons to make a political statement that had nothing to do with being American but everything to do with being a certain kind of American with a certain mindset. We were using the flag to license ourselves as schoolyard bullies.
This is sure as hell not what I served under our flag for. I served to help guarantee the right to dissent, to express oneself without being smeared as a traitor. I didn`t serve to encourage penny-ante bullies to hide their various hatreds behind the flag and expressions of support for the troops.
In fact, I think if we gave a damn about the troops we`d reinstitute the draft so that rich men would think twice before sending the children of the poor to war while keeping their own children at home. And if someone has conscientious reasons not to serve let him serve his country in some civil endeavor.
I don`t know how many fellow Americans share my apprehension about how our great show of patriotism after 9/11 played out. I`m a victim of post-traumatic stress disorder, which means I`m hyper-vigilant [the same malady that afflicts many of our veterans], so maybe some paranoia is at play here. But I persist in thinking quite a few of us beat up on our fellow Americans under the guise of supporting the troops.
And I persist in thinking these intimidators were subtly licensed by the Bush-Cheney White House as a way to whip up war fever and hose down opposition. If I`m right in this suspicion, it was a despicable abuse of patriotism, and I hope that future historians, more attuned to mass psychology than historians have traditionally been, will fully explore this betrayal of American ideals.
Just as some police are ticketing and interrogating people for the crime of being brown or black, I think storm troopers were encouraged among us to push around fellow Americans for the alleged crime of trying to think straight while the nation was being deceived into a bankrupting war that has primarily benefited crooks.
Djelloul Marbrook is a retired newspaperman. His second book of poems, Brushstrokes and Glances, will be published by Deerbrook Editions on December 20, 2010. His first book of poems, Far From Algiers, won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University in 2007 and was published in 2008. It won the International Book Award in 2010. His novella, Artemisia`s Wolf, will be published by Prakash Books of India in December. His novella, Saraceno, was recently published as an e-book. His story, Artists Hill, adapted from the second novel of an unpublished trilogy, won the Literal LattÃ© first prize in fiction in 2008. The pioneering e-book publisher, Online Originals (UK), published his novella, Alice MIller`s Room, in 1999.
Del`s book, Far From Algiers: http://upress.kent.edu/books/Marbrook_D.htm
New review of Far from Algiers: http://www.rattle.com/blog/2009/05/far-from-algiers-by-djelloul-marbrook/
Artists Hill, Literal LattÃ©`s fiction first prize: http://www.literal-latte.com/author/djelloulmarbrook/
His blog: http://www.djelloulmarbrook.com
His mother`s art: http://www.juanitaguccione.com
His aunt`s art: http://www.irenericepereira.com