When I was a lad, my family never flew the flag. I suppose that was because of the war that had just ended and our German heritage. Rather than flying the flag, my father sent CARE packages to our relatives in Heilbronn and Koblenz, both heavily bombed cities.
Just yesterday my daughter in Cleveland called and told me that they bought a flag for their new home, "Just like you and mom did," she said. Our son in Toledo flies the flag too.
I flew the flag right after 9-11 day and night, feeling the pride of community, as all Americans joined together in common grief and shock. Flag-waving.
As I recall, we put our flag away during the Nixon Watergate scandal, not unveiling it until Ford took office. In the run-up to George Bush's attack on Iraq my flag remained inside my garage. I did not want to think that I was caught up in that zealous patriotic fever that swept across this land initiated by "WMD's" and "Mushroom Clouds." I could see right through that propaganda bunk. Emerson's famous line tempered my enthusiasm: "When a whole nation is roaring Patriotism at the top of its voice, I am fain to explore the cleanness of its hands and purity of its heart."
Our hearts have not been pure and neither our hands. Patriotic fever allowed many here in America to be duped by the propaganda spewing from the White House into their living rooms, unfiltered by thoughtful and wise members of the media. Thomas Jefferson warned in 1787, "...were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."
America is paying the price for wild patriotic fever: 3,500 dead military men and women and 30,000 wounded. Three-quarters of a trillion tax-payer dollars down the drain [and into the coffers of Halliburton.] Why were we so badly duped? Why did so many fall for the propaganda? Had it been to long since we learned the lessons of the German people in 1939?
The eagle as our national symbol ought to be studied more closely. She is powerful yet cautious. She observes well and is prudent in her actions and seldom misses her target. The recent actions of our nation are more akin to a pigeon than an eagle.
My flag hangs out today. Not in some knee-jerk patriotic reflex. Rather, as a symbol of what this nation could and ought to be. It is not a symbol of warmongering, but of hope. Emma Lazarus' famous words, "Give me your tired, your poor,/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." Lady Liberty in the New York harbor holds a torch, not a gun. A torch to light the way, to welcome those for whom 'liberty' is only a dream.
My flag is out today.