Everyday is Flag Day
(Third in a series of Rediscovering America)
“How are you?” a perky, young female clerk asked me as I walked through the front door of the odds and ends shop in Upper Dublin, Pennsylvania near Philadelphia.
I was taken aback by her forthright question. I hadn’t been back to the US for a dozen years and had just arrived the night before from Denmark, where one is not ordinarily asked such an intimate question by strangers. I had come to visit my friend Dave and partake in a reunion of the 1970s alternative weekly, the Los Angeles Vanguard, and the new online newspaper, This Cant Be Happening!.
“Not so well; kinda sad,” I ventured timidly.
The questioner’s jaw dropped. The three women customers stopped talking and looked at me inquisitively.
“Why’s that?” asked the clerk.
“Do you really want to know?” I asked incredulously.
The clerk nodded her head. “Yes, I do.”
“Well, I’m sad about this country killing so many people in the world through their wars of aggression.”
The three customers immediately rushed out the door, one waving her gloved hand to the clerk while averting her eyes from my perplexed face.
I’d already witnessed some disconcerting signs on the early morning walk that had led me to this mall. It bothered me to see so many US flags flying just about everywhere, including at this little gift shop. What is the meaning with so much attention being given to Old Glory?
“We’re patriotic. We’re more principled than Muslims,” explained the car-wash business owner on at a nearby corner. His business was displaying a dozen flags in three sizes. The largest was about 10X17 feet--around the size of the 1820s Old Glory flag sown for a seafaring whaler, Captain Driver. This car-wash business flew three flags on tall poles. A dozen smaller ones were stuck into the ground around the building site, as if marking off its territory.
“Oh? You seem really obsessed about your flag,” I replied.
The small businessman in his 40s glared at me with arms crossed.
“Hrumph! You Europeans are socialists, softies,” he said, with a wry grin.
“Not at all,” I replied. “Europe runs on a capitalist economy just like here, but there is a better social network for its workers, because they fought for such.”
“Well, social welfare is the same,” he retorted. “It all boils down to state control and we don’t want that here. We fly our flag to show our patriotism for freedom, for private property. The flag is flown more since 9/11. It shows us and the world that we are proud to be Americans. We stand strong, united in patriotism.”