Tuesday, August 26, 2003

On the Road Again - Flag Day

Another long day today, and at the end of which I got caught in a Circus traffic jam - a huge line of SUVs that were all going to Cirque du Soliel tent set up in the parking lot of the Renton Boeing works. But that's not what I'm here to talk about. Rather I want to talk about something I saw a few weeks back, and was just reminded of this evening.

Back in early August, I was stopped at a traffic light, when across from me, facing the other way, was a truck. One of those short-bed pickup trucks, the type that would be hard-pressed to carry a couch. Bright yellow. Jacked up about four feet in the air. With a huge American Flag mounted in the bed of the truck.

Leaving aside the driver's obvious security issues, what caught my eye was the flag - it was one of the sorriest flags I've seen in a long time. You put a flag in a high 50-60 mph wind for a while and its going to fray, and this one was already unraveling, large rents appearing in the seams.

And I thought, "What a pinhead."

This came back to me, as I was caught in the Circus traffic jam, and I was passed on the right by a chain-smoking retiree who had two flags on her car - one on the roof on each side. These poor flags looked like they had been mounted on 9/12/01 and never tended to since. They were practically triangular in shape from the force of the wind, ratting along all edges, and faded to the point that the red white and blue was the pink, gray, and teal. They were recognizable as flags only because they could not have been anything else.

And I thought, "That reminds me of that other pinhead."

Which is the point - a lot of people have been putting flags up for the past couple years, but if you're going to do it, for god's sake, take care of them. Nothing says "Know-Nothing American" like a flag decal that has faded to ghostly shades. Spring for the extra buck and get a new one.

I was talking with a scout leader at Kate's H&R Block picnic. His troop and that of connected Sea Scout troop, have a problem in that people are now donating their old flags to them. A lot of flags. More flags than they can dispose of. And yes, the proper way of retiring a soiled, damaged, or worn flag is to burn it (its true). They're investigating doing large ceremonies so they can burn 30 and 40 at a shot just to keep up.

And I would support an anti-flag-burning amendment, I think, if it would include these pinheads who slap a flag on their vehicle and then forget about it for, oh, a few years. Throw in those gas stations who keep their giant, ripped flags up 24/7 in all sorts of weather. I think we're missing an easy amendment, here.

Actually, I have greater respect for even the flag-burners than I have for these absent-minded Amurricans. They are at least agreeing with me that the flag is a symbol and the flag has power. Those who slap the flag up and then forget about it ("It's ON YOUR CAR! How can you not NOTICE IT?!") underscore one of the attitudes that others overseas ascribe to us - that we aren't really serious about our citizenship.

So, if you read this, go out and look at your vehicle (or place of business or home, if you've got a flag flying there). If it looks like it has had bombs bursting in air over it, its time to retire it. If its a real flag, give it to the scouts for a proper retirement ceremony (they will catch up with the backlog, eventually). If its a decal, get a new one. Just quit pretending that the putting a flag up once establishes your street cred as a true American.

OK, I'm done now.