Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Vanishing Points

Funny how one's perspective changes as one sees more of life. Being a child of the sixties, I've often felt that, as in the words of Samuel Johnson, patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Not the real patriotism of the warrior fighting to protect our liberties, the outcast striving for social change, the one who works for the greatest good for the greatest number or the statesman but rather the false patriotism of the politician, the promoter of causes that only they profit from, the bigot, the zealot and to many other to name. Spare me the loud ones who seek to divide and conquer and inflict their views on me as being the only right one and all others are wrong. The flag wavers who have contributed little to life except to take. There are many countries, religions or organizations that have flags, both real and metaphorical, so don't assume I'm speaking solely of the flag of the United States. I'm referring more to scoundrels.

I was doing a job lately that was only bore a vague resemblance to one that might be considered properly prepared, the type we all have suffered through and indeed, at times, profited from. In this case, the US flag was on a staff USR. I was in a bucket 25" in the air which always allows one a different point of view on things. In the turmoil the flag got knocked to the deck. Not a big deal. But then the knocker proceeded to step back and forth, from US to CS and back, over the staff and flag. Now the staff had one of those tips you would find on a pike, rather pointed and was right at knee height, a physical danger. I had two reactions. A.) How the knocker could be so self absorbed as to continually step over an obstruction that he had created and B.) "That’s an American freaking flag you're stepping on, asshole." I didn't know the knocker and can presume no malicious intent. What struck me was my reaction to the scene. I was honked someone was walking on the flag.

How in deeply ingrained are reactions. People have fought for, suffered and died for the ideas represented by that piece of cloth. Call it the Boy Scout training in how to treat the flag but I get annoyed at buildings that fly the flag at night without lighting it or leaving it exposed so long it turns black and tattered. Burning that piece of cloth as a statement of protest is something that I don't have a problem with because, to me, that is less a piece of desecration than a affirmation of those freedoms embodied by it, a price for having freedom of speech. It's a desecration to ignore it or to abuse it. Don't dishonor it by letting it get ruined by inaction or because you're lazy or too stupid have an awareness of your own actions.

Isn’t life funny? I’m an old hippy getting annoyed with someone for stepping on the flag. Aristide Briand, a Prime Minister of France is reputed to have said, “a man who isn't a socialist at 20 has no heart, and a man who is a socialist at 40 has no head." Times change and because I don’t have a choice, so do I.