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  • Betty Girardeau

Flags, Flags, and More Flags


Yesterday the weather could not have been more beautiful, a perfect fall day during which I logged the most miles yet for work. We have been having some cooler nights and plenty of rain, so the wildflowers are banking the sides of the roads, and the trees are beginning to show some color. It is beginning to look like we are going to have an especially colorful fall. But besides all of this natural beauty, I was struck by how many flags I saw, most of them American ones. But quite a few political ones and, of course, some Confederate battle flags, too. Along many of the highways was Tennessee's fall version of the 1000 Mile Yard Sale going on since Wednesday. Many of these sale locations had tents that were only selling flags. In general, I don't think I have seen so many varying locations flying flags since the days right after 9-11. When I was growing up you typically only saw flags flown on or around public buildings except on certain "flag" days during the year. But from what I have been seeing lately it is extremely common to see flags in the yards of very modest homes and even single and double-wide trailers. Ordinarily I would think this obvious pride in Old Glory is a good thing. However, at a time when there is so much blatant political division in our country, it makes me feel very wary of what is behind so much flag waving. In addition, though, I don't recall ever seeing so many roadside stands selling flags either, most of which are symbols for various political opinions or persuasions. In many of the yards that I passed the American flag and a political flag would be flying side by side or the political one just below the Stars and Stripes. Is what I am seeing these days, though, perhaps some kind of unhealthy flag waving? In 2017 John Donovan wrote an interesting article entitled "Why Americans Are So Crazy About The Flag," in which he suggests that we Americans should admit that we are un-naturally attached to our country's flag. He suggests that in general this is not a bad thing, but adds but that "Americans can sometimes look at our country through unapologetic rose-colored glasses, and the most patriotic of us do so through flag-festooned contact lenses." He suggests that we "are flag-waving crazy like maybe no place on Earth." In fact, the Flag Manufacturers of America estimates that some 150 million American flags of all sizes are sold every year! Donovan sums up why he believes Americans tend to idolize the flag so much this way as "The desire, the fervent need to find unity." I hope he is right.

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