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Another Patriotic Holiday, Another Day of Liberal Flag-Avoidance Syndrome

4 years ago
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Once again on a patriotic holiday, only two flags flew on my block, and it breaks my heart. What is it about liberals that makes so many so disinclined to embrace patriotic symbols, to show the world that they care?

My block is in upper Northwest Washington, D.C., a beating heart of liberal America. On the Fourth of July, as usual, one flag was flown by a couple who had long government careers in defense and science. The other was at my house.

For many years the only flag enthusiast in our household was my husband, a Southerner who served in the Army during the Vietnam era. His devotion -- he has never missed a holiday -- was slightly embarrassing to me. I loved my country, but I wanted to perfect it. I went into journalism in hopes of improving it. Mine was a somewhat querulous love. It certainly wasn't overt or emotional.

That all changed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. I happened to be in Montclair, N.J., that day, 12 miles directly west of the World Trade Center. I stood on a lookout across the Hudson River and watched it collapse.

The emotional aftermath of that day has stayed with me all these years. It's not that I suddenly became blind to my country's flaws. But practically overnight I began to feel a visceral love for its ideals and possibilities, and a strong protective urge. The idea of America the vulnerable, America under threat, was new. Driving back to Washington a few days after the attacks, I was beside myself on behalf of the cows in the fields I passed. They tried to kill you, I said to the cows. My country's cows. My cows.

My first flag was a 3x5 sticker that I put on the back window of my (at that time Japanese) car. I had two of them, so I put the other on the screen door of my house. I became proud of the large flag adorning our porch on Memorial Day, Flag Day, Veterans Day, the Fourth of July. It did not seem to me that this constituted putting my brain or critical faculties in a blind trust. Who would not want to remember and celebrate our soldiers, the birth of our nation?

I spent the year of 2001 doing research into the "two Americas" revealed in the 2000 election and gained an understanding of why some people don't like to put up flags. To them it signals not patriotism but nationalism. The displays remind them of Germany under Hitler, and, inevitably, the relatives they lost in Europe. In other cases, flying flags is just not something that people do. It wasn't a family custom when they were growing up, and it doesn't mean much to them now.

There are no doubt active resisters. They are skeptics, critics, questioners. This is the way they approach life, not just their relationship with their country. These are the people who don't buy American cars because they think that foreign cars are better, and until recently, they would have been right.

Last year, when the U.S. auto industry was on the verge of collapse, I wrote about the cars on my block. I counted 17 foreign cars versus three American (including one of mine). A terrible ratio, especially since domestic cars are much more competitive now on quality, style and reliability. Still, that was one more U.S. car than U.S. flag.

Liberal politicians have so much trouble proving they are patriots, even those with stellar service records (George McGovern was a World War II bomber pilot; John Kerry earned five medals in Vietnam). They spend a good portion of their campaigns trying, and often failing, to reclaim patriotism and patriotic symbols for the Democratic Party.

The task would be a lot easier for Democrats, particularly presidential candidates, if liberals became unabashed flag-wavers. It's not an impossible prospect. Granted, it's sometimes hard to love this country as it is, but it's easy to love it for what it aims to be. That's how I think of the flag, and that's how this onetime closet patriot learned to love waving it.

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157 Comments

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kev

MR JEFFREY CALLS FOR CIVIL DIALOGUE???? THE WRITER ASSUMES THAT CLOSE TO 100% OF HER BLOCK ARE LIBERALS WHO DON'T FLY THE FLAG???? SHE COULD'VE SAID HEY WHAT HAPPENED TO AMERICA???? HERE ON MY BLOCK ONLY 2 FLAGS FLY ONE BEING MINE AND SUCH AND SUCH!!! BUT NO THE WRITER BASED UPON 100% FACTS AND KNOWLEDGE THAT HER BLOCK IS ALL LIBERALS AND THEY DON'T FLY THE FLAG?????? IS SHE NOT ATTACKING AND PROFILING BASED UPON WHAT!!! ATTACKING LIBEERALS MUST BE OK ON THE CIVIL METER???
BUT I'M SURE THEY WILL NOT POST MY POST CAUSE THE TRUTH IS ATTACKING THE WRITER!!! AND THE WRITER CAN WRITE WHAT SHE WANTS BASED UPON THE TRUTH???? AS SHE KNOWS IT????

July 08 2010 at 8:40 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Nicole

" . . . and I gotta tell ya folks, I don't get all choked up about yellow ribbons and American flags. I consider them to be symbols and I leave symbols to the symbol-minded"

-George Carlin

July 07 2010 at 3:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
xanthernight

Perhaps the writer should peer into her neighbors' windows and see what lies inside? I don't fly a flag outside my house either, but inside, where I spend most of my time, you can't walk three feet without bumping into some Americana.
Liberals, like myself, are less interested in "symbolism" and more concerned with "activism". I would rather show my patriotism through my actions than hang up a flag or wear a lapel pin and think my job is done.
And on the idea that liberal politicians have so much trouble proving they are patriots...to who? Conservatives? Of course! Just as conservatives have a hard time convincing liberals that they're not racist, or homophobic, or religious zealots.
- Robert Howard

July 06 2010 at 10:44 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Richard

America is a great country, flying the flag has nothing to do with being conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat. While our country may not be perfect it is still by the far the greatest country in the world. We are free to fly the flag or not fly the flag. That is what freedom is all about. We need to stop trying to force our own beliefs on others. I fly the flag daily and I am a Democrat becasue I choose to be. Don't criticize someone because the fly the flag or not. That is how a true American should act.

July 06 2010 at 8:20 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
morgdowney

I too live in Northwest Washington and am an unapologetic liberal. I fly the flag on most holidays, including June 6th, which is not usually commerated. I too feel liberals have too easily given up the flag. This is not hard to justify as it is too ofter associated with military and nationalistic events. (Why isn't the flag associated with the Folklife Festival??) But I disagree that we have to promote our 'liberal' warriors to justify flying the flag.I was a conscientious objector during the Viet Nam War and did my two years alternate service. I fly the flag because I believe it belongs to all of us. Period. Morgan Downey

July 06 2010 at 6:38 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
radioriter3

Dear Politics Daily,


I'm glad to hear you are establishing a code of decency in the comments section.

The 20 year unraveling of simple good faith in political discussions originated in the culture of low-brow talk radio, where managers opted for the easy route of pure invective, devoid of truth or ethics, in order to capture an easy three percent of potential listeners, which 3 percent in the radio business insures advertising revenue at a profitable level.

Where in prior times, broadcasters would search for gifted communicators in an effort to attract audience, we are now in an era where radio companies find it much simpler to put the most hate fueled programs on the public airwaves in order to more easily appeal to a reliable audience that responds to unbridled hate without requiring any talent, knowledge, or ethics.

The Dodge City culture of low-brow talk radio changed the character of broadcasting, political discourse, and our country.....and not for the better.

Jay Diamond

July 06 2010 at 6:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
kdegidon

The tragedy of this past decade is that a lot of historic context in our society has been lost and forgotten. At America's finest hour, there was no presumption that patriotism belonged to any specific ideology or party. The trouble facing America is that since the 1960s, that the left abandoned patriotism, leaving the right (neo-con really, George Washington was a true conservative) to dominate the claim. Prior to that, patriotism included an understanding of culture and history, as well as a concern of how people in the nation are doing and how the nation is perceived by others. Patriotism did not suggest chauvinism nor jingoism. America saved the civilized world in those days. But now neos define the term in almost exclusively that manner and the left continues to use it as a rationale for foresaking the flag. 9/11 should have ended this paradigm of a narrow right and nihilistic left dominating our political landscape. The average American understood this in their hearts, it’s just unfortunate that much of our political elite doesn’t seem willing to grow up.

July 06 2010 at 2:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Steve LaMarine

It has angered me for years that the neo-cons stole the flag from the rest of us, so I fly it for every appropriate holiday -- and sometimes just because I feel like it. I still have a 48-star flag that I waved at a parade as a little kid, and one of my 50-star flags was flown over the Capitol for a milisecond in honor of my late father, a veteran of WWII. Who are these right-wing people who think the flag only belongs to them? For that matter, who are they to think they are the only ones who love their guns? (I grew up wanting to be a gunsmith.) I guess they're the same ones who think they have a private line to God, as long as they keep spending money for bigger churches and ignore problems here on earth. But, back to the flag ... Ms. Lawrence is correct. We can't expect politicians to know they have our support until we do a little flag-waving of our own.

July 06 2010 at 12:01 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
Charlie

I'm a liberal, and the American Flag flies in front of my house. I have a problem with those who seem to think that liberalism isn't American--America was built on the liberalism of our founding fathers, but more importantly, it was built on our founding fathers believing that a nation should embrace different opinions and free speech. What's most unpatriotic is not the failure to fly a flag--and there are liberals and conservatives who don't fly flags. What's most unpatriotic is for any American (liberal or conservative) who believes that a person who has views different from his own is not a "true" American. America was built on the acceptance of differing opinions. That's why we have a multi-party system and three branches of government which include as its legislative branch a House and Senate elected by the people. From the days when John Adams and Thomas Jefferson fought as Federalist and Democratic-Republicans, Americans had differing views--yet no one questioned that they are all true Americans, as we all are today, liberals and conservatives alike.

July 06 2010 at 11:32 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
charitonia

vicvlvic10:47 PM Jul 5, ... It should be a law made punishable by deportation or exile to burn or desecrate a "Living Thing" like our Flag that so many have laid down their lives for! It is a despicable, childish act of contempt, stupidity and disrespect!!

If desecrating the flag earns you such punishment...what does desecrating the earth earn you? It's funny how people are so quick to rally around a piece of cloth and call it sacred but around the world we have failed to rally around the one most sacred entity...the earth that gives us everything including life itself. Stop spouting ideologies and start protecting what really matters.

July 06 2010 at 9:04 AM Report abuse -5 rate up rate down Reply

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