Saturday, July 02, 2005

Of Flags and Aidan

Today I have been thinking about the U.S. flag. Hard not to. Flags at GHS flown at half mast, former student, 17, killed in motorcycle accident. Later, political cartoon in GDT about burning flags, and what to do about flag burning. Burnt flag on Stacy Boulevard. Feeling sick when looking at it--unlike Vietnam, flag does not seem to protest anything, except flag burning. Been thinking about people who collect money so that flags can fly along boulevard. What that means and why they do it. Been thinking, too, about the flag vandals who waste the flag money. And about my own connection to flags, their sound in breeze, the night of Ian's service not touching to vandalize but because the sound of nylon hitting nylon was comforting. Thinking about my parents' generation. My grandparents'. Their patriotism in contrast to my patriotism--and why it's different. Been thinking about the veterans I know--Grumps, my grandfather, Grampy. One who can't and won't talk about his experience at war. One no longer living who loved to talk about the war and fly the flag, war veterans always heroes. Another busy constructing remote-control airplanes to museum perfection, replica of B25 bomber that he flew in WWII, trying to get back to the adrenaline, the fight for something that he believed in, the skies. Memories of Las Vegas, Nevada, as a kid, driving to outskirts of town to fly the war-inspired planes that my grandfather built and to learn how to shoot a gun, stunned by the kick of the gun when I pulled the trigger.

Stunned I am at my reaction when I see a U.S. flag, though I will not fly one because of the mixed up way the flag makes me feel. Sentimental, compassionate, patriotic. I think about lives lost--some for something, some for nothing. About sacrifices made--families, mothers and fathers losing children in war, gripped with sadness. Then I think about Nena passing on Grumps' flag to Tad, the one given to her at his burial. Given to Tad because it is important to her and was to Grumps. I think about it sitting in a corner of our bedroom, our not knowing what to do with it. Then the opposite. Anger. U.S. imperialism--the attitude that this country knows best, does best. Denial that a war might be about something other than freedom. Denial that there is reason to hate the U.S.--reason more than jealousy or religious zealotry. Idea that American flag symbolizes greed in many parts of the world. I think of the corporate flag from Adbusters, corporate logos spread across an image of the U.S. flag. Makes me think about the cost of this country's desire to be happy, about American values, about my values.

Wondering, as always, what to teach my children. How much to tell and how much to keep to myself? Aidan noticing, "Nena has a flag and Nanny and Dappa do not." And wondering what to say when Aidan asks, "Mommy, why don't we have a flag at our house?" I've given a few simple answers such as, "Not everyone likes to fly a flag (which elicits, "but why?") And the flag means different things to different people," but these answers seem vague, hollow. I want to tell her more. She deserves more. And I will tell her more. At some point.

For now, though, I am certain about one thing and that is that this post will keep. And that I have written it for Aidan as much as I have written it for myself.

No comments: