“We have two American flags always: one for the rich and one for the poor. When the rich fly, it means that things are under control; when the poor fly, it means danger, revolution, anarchy.”
My wife Michele and I went to the Yankee game on May Day last year (2004). They gave out free caps. “NY” on the front, of course…and a shiny patch on the back of the hat acknowledged the giveaway day sponsor: Hess.
The House that Ruth Built became a moveable ad for oil (instant replays brought to you by Dodge).
The seventh inning stretch required fans to stand in honor of the “men and women in uniform” who fight to “preserve our way of life.” Fifty thousand removed their free caps, watched a digitized flag wave on the big screen, and held the Hess patch over cholesterol-laden hearts while belting out “God Bless America,” collectively choosing to ignore the blood being spilled to keep the world safe for petroleum (Michele and I opted for a strategic bathroom break at that point). The Yankees won and many of the fans promptly rushed out to drive home in their ubiquitous SUVs…adorned, of course, with the ubiquitous “support the troops” yellow ribbon sticker.
Surely I wasn’t the only one contemplating this “my country right or wrong” concept of patriotism…but just as surely, if I had articulated those feelings, some of my fellow Yankee fans would have responded with overt hostility.
I know this from experience. For example, when I wrote an article about Pat Tillman that was critical of the hero worship upon his death, many patriots sent e-mails that voiced sentiments like this: “What really sickens me is that good people like Pat died so you can talk shit about him.”
It seems what offends this breed of flag-waver most is when someone else actually exercises the freedom they claim to adore…the freedom they believe someone like Tillman kills to defend.
To such folks, says Michael Parenti, “America is a simplified ideological abstraction, an emotive symbol represented by other abstract symbols like the flag. It is the object of a faithlike devotion, unencumbered by honest history.” For them, Parenti adds: “Those who do not share in this uncritical Americanism ought to go live in some other country.”
I might add: Those with plans to celebrate May Day might also try “some other country.”
In 2005, let’s at least wish a Happy 175th B’day to Mother Jones.
MICKEY Z. is currently writing a book on related topics, “50 American Revolutions: People’s Patriotism Since 1776,” to be released by Disinformation in fall 2005. He can be found on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net.