There was a time when I recited the pledge of allegiance with my hand over my heart, gazing at the American flag, admiring its simple beauty and reflecting upon the many sacrifices made in homage to that flag. The sight of the stars and stripes made my heart flutter with warmth.
I’ve recently noticed different reactions reach into the pit of my stomach upon seeing the flag. About 18 months ago, a neighbor expressed concern about a ginormous pickup that was parked around the corner from her home. It had two flags planted in the bed. One flag was a Confederate flag; the other was an American flag. My neighbor, a brown-skinned woman, felt uneasy. A few days later said pickup thundered past my house on titanic tires, flags flapping up a riot. I shared my neighbor’s uneasiness. What is this person saying? Is he/she an American or is the person a throwback to the Civil War and a supporter of the Confederacy rather than the Union? Is this person simply under-informed about who won that war and the grim role racism and slavery played in the Civil War? Or, is this person just a plain, everyday racist, newly empowered by the current political leadership of America?
A few days ago I drove a portion of the main north/south highway in Idaho, frequently diving off to explore the sideroads that connect ranching enclaves that make Idaho what it is: a mostly agrarian state with a cluster of far flung, small urban, technological hubs scattered about. I grew up in a ranching community, in the presence of ranchers whose families had worked the land since the 1860s. I respected and admired these mostly Christian, salt-of-the-earth people. They had strong opinions and beliefs, which they never wore on their sleeves or hips. They knew that not everyone was Christian nor Republican. I felt equally at home in an urban setting and in agricultural environs. I could joke good-naturedly about the bulge in a guy’s lower lip and the .06 in the rack behind his head. There was nothing more exciting and goose-pimply than participating in the elaborate grand entry presentation of the United States and the State of Wyoming flags to the sound of “Stars and Stripes Forever” to kick off the rodeos of my youth.
Funny thing is, as patriotic and God-fearing as these Wyoming ranchers were, I don’t remember seeing a lot of American flags waving around their ranches and never from their vehicles. Ranchers had enough to worry about without having to worry about keeping a light on the flag at night and bringing it in during inclement weather.
On this recent drive north from Boise, my eye spied just about every kind of American flag or composite of it that you can imagine. Many places had three or four flags flapping in the wind on this rainy day. I saw the now well-recognized thin blue line flags, Betsy Ross flags, Confederate flags, and one that almost caused me to drive off the road: a half and half flag! What I did not see were MIA/POW flags or BLM flags—not to be mistaken for BLM (as in Bureau of Land Management) signs, which I saw a lot of.
Where is all this patriotism coming from? Oh yes, most of these über-flagged properties also flew large Trump signs. What in the world has Trump done to deserve the adoration of patriots? The men and women with legs and arms missing and suffering life-altering flashbacks, can’t possibly respect Trump’s bone-spurs. And why does the sight of Old Glory no longer cause my heart to flutter in pride, but instead drives it to the pit of my stomach and causes me to look away? What has happened to my flag? What has happened to my country? Will either survive?
PS: Now this! For those proud boys who love the stripes, my town will hold a Trumpavan today.