Crimmins photo project

Jingoing to Hell

Jingoing to Hell
Cut-rate patriotism is everywhere. It's often perfectly sensible/ Why shouldn't some fat cat love this country? If you have it soft, why not celebrate our wonderful system? But why do so many poor folks fly the flag? Is it because they've already given so much for it that they dare not question for what and whom it stands? Have they lost children and/or other family members in any of an endless succession of wars? And so do they then fly it out of respect for these literal human sacrifices the flag has demanded? Have they left parts of themselves behind on far away battlefields and so fly the flag to commemorate their own service?

I am forever wondering why people who have gotten nothing but chewed up and spit out by this country still wear their devotion to it on their sleeves. I'd like to think they fly Old Glory as an ironic indictment but I know that is not the case because I know and have known many of these flag-flying paupers. They are sincere in their patriotism and I have no choice but to respect it.
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The more I think about it, the more I assume the military plays a big role in this. The military trains people to demonstrate devotion in an unquestioning fashion. It teaches people that only a traitor would hold his or her country responsible for the oppressive circumstances brought on by an economy rigged for the wealthy. And we ain't no traitors 'round here!  

So the flag is unfurled and revered without regard for the perpetual economic degradation it flies above. Many of the Americans fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan dream of returning to homes like those in the accompanying photos. And many of these compromised dwellings are occupied by military veterans (plenty with kids in active service, too). Benefits are hard to come by in this country but flags are cheap and plentiful. It's the one thing they won't take from you but don't go asking for anything else --- or about anything else.

Maybe some of these people know exactly what they are doing by flying the flag. Maybe they intend to make a nuanced gesture. Maybe they fly the flag out of respect for what's been lost but maybe they also knowingly  fly it above the tattered remains of what could have been had this life offered more than a piece of cloth that stands for something as hollow as the pole from which it flaps.
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CharlieTuesday, May 13th 2008 6:32AM

B, I want to believe that the reason flags fly outside so many shoddily shingled homes is hope.
That the occupants cling to the hope and dream that the flag once symbolized, that idea of democracy where the people were the government and the government was for the people.
It has been a long, bumpy down hill fall from those days yet there are still so many who have had so little for so long that all that is left for them is the undying belief that their country will eventually have to do right by them and they stand by their hopes with all the strength they can muster.
(Of course there are also flags that fly in front of the homes of just plain morons whose only reason for it is to warn any pinko-lefty he is no one to be trifled with.)


RichMonday, May 12th 2008 11:04PM

I second the comments by Strangefate and would like to add that maybe the reason most of these people fly the American flag is because they want to support  China and their slave labor economy.

StrangefateMonday, May 12th 2008 9:41PM

I'd say they fly it because being an American is one of the few things they can feel pride in.  They may lack all the other status symbols we are told mean something -- wealth, education, fame, youth, beauty, etc -- but goddamn it they're still Americans.  And an American is better than anyone else in the world.  We're told this from birth.  We're told by movies, by TV, in classrooms, and by each other.  The myth of American exceptional-ism makes even the least of us exceptional.

Nationalism (and it's close cousin racism) allows people to maintain some vestige of dignity.  As long as there's someone, somewhere, inferior to you, then you're not really at rock bottom.  

That's one snobby elitist leftist's opinion anyhow.