by RIP RENSE
Lots of funny things have been
going on with the flag lately.
Over in Iraq, an American soldier raised a
stars-and-stripes over some conquered territory last week. You could almost hear Rumsfeld
screaming from Washington, "No---take it down!", and Old Glory was almost
instantly replaced by the Iraqi standard.
(We aren't conquerors, you see. Never mind that
we are showering the country with science-fiction explosives, and moving an army in to
This use of the flag didn't offend me, though,
not because the "mistake" was quickly realized, but because it wasn't my flag
that soldier was raising. The flag I believe in has never been used to wantonly invade
nations on the basis of presidential whim and corporate gluttony.
Then there were the flags I saw in flames at
protests in Westwood and Hollywood last week. Both were torched by kids demonstrating
against Bush administration policies.
In one case, the banner-burner, perhaps 19 or
20, had his hair greased up in great spikes---rather like Miss Liberty! (I imagine he
would be horrified by the comparison.) Anyhow, he flag-rantly doused his bit of cloth with
lighter fluid, tried to ignite it over and over, but the darn thing wouldn't catch!
Probably made in China, and treated with lots of flame-retardant.
Eventually, Miss Liberty managed to kind of
the symbol into ashes over a span of ten minutes, as onlookers (including cops) laughed.
All-in-all, not a very incendiary statement. (Further doused by the presence of many
protesters proudly waving full-sized star-spangled banners.)
Rhetoric was fiery, though, at the Hollywood
protest flag-BBQ, which took place outside of CNN headquarters---correctly targeted along
with all mainstream media for essentially acting as a Charlie McCarthy for the Bush
administration's Edgar Bergen.
An adrenalin-eyed, rather sweaty young fellow
was successfully firing up his petite stars-and-stripes, while a CNN camera crew hungrily
filmed. Somehow, this crew had plunged into a throng of about (my estimate) 7,000, and
found the only person who was burning a flag. Now that's objective reporting!
"WHY ARE YOU FILMING THAT? WHY? WHY AREN'T
YOU COVERING THE WHOLE RALLY?" a middle-aged woman screamed at the camera crew.
"We ARE," the crew screamed
back, then, to their credit, filmed the woman as she raged eloquently against them, CNN in
general, and all mainstream media for pigeonholing and trivializing the anti-war protests
(often granting "equal time" footage to corporate-promoted pro-war protests
consisting of a couple dozen, or a couple hundred.)
When Screaming Lady's harangue began to flag,
the crew interviewed the sweaty lad, who did the oratorical equivalent of an e-mail
"flamer"---shouting about the sins of America, and the need for
"revolution," his Constitutional rights, and blah blah.
I later spoke to him.
"You know, my friend, when you burn the
flag, you undercut the credibility of the protests here, because the undecided out
there will immediately assume everyone here is anti-American. We're not anti-American, and
neither are you. You believe in what the flag represents, as you just showed by extolling
the virtues of free speech. But if you burn the flag, you'll just star in a soundbite
"You're right that I'm an American!"
he said, voice drunk with self-importance leftover from the filming. "I believe in revolution!"
Well, I wasn't offended by the actions of Miss
Liberty or Revolution Boy, because it wasn't my flag they were burning. My flag is not
based on ignorance, stupidity, disrespect, anger, and youthful ardor. While there is a
touch of revolutionary spirit in my Old Glory, it is not the reactionary, college-kid type
of this impassioned pup. I figured he understood and appreciated the Constitution about as
well as John Ashcroft does. Or Antonin Scalia, who recently declared our freedoms well in
excess of those Constutionally guaranteed.
The funniest stuff of all, though, flag-wise,
has been coming out of Washington, D.C..
As the attack on Iraq drew nearer, the Bush
administration broke out in Old Glory pins like measles. In a public relations display
worthy of Goebbels, Bush's statements were invariably buttressed by gigantic, blinding
backdrops of broad stripes and bright stars.
The message could not be missed:
If you don't support our policies, you're
not a patriot. We can tell you don't support our policies, because you are not wearing a
flag pin. Or waving a flag from the top of your Super Usurption Vehicle.
Bill Moyers, whose heroic "Now"
program is doing some of the most credible and probing journalism on the tube every Friday
night, said this a couple weeks ago:
"The flag's been hijacked and turned into
a logo---the trademark of a monopoly on patriotism. On those Sunday morning talk shows,
official chests appear adorned with the flag as if it is the good housekeeping seal of
approval. . . When I see flags sprouting on official lapels, I think of the time in China
when I saw Mao's little red book on every official's desk, omnipresent and unread."
I agree with Bill. If the flag represents only
the Bush Administration's current policies, then we'd best just rename it Old Gory.
The flag-pinned administra- tion, after all, is now implementing a plan written well
before 9/11 (as the Project for a New American Century
"Global Pax Americana" demonstrates)---a plan that says the USA may brutally
attack anyone, anywhere, anytime, if the President wants to. Using any and all---including
Well, the little flag pin on the chests of
administration officials is not my flag, either. That's a flag of nationalism, not
patriotism, and nationalism is almost always a thing to be feared. That's a flag that has
been subverted to intimidate, and bully, and frighten, and play upon the paranoia, hatred
and anger in the population. A flag reduced from its grander meaning--- civilization,
aspiration, justice, liberty---to brutish propaganda.
And this abuse of the flag offends the
red-white- and-blue out of me.
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