I keep away from flags. They are trouble. I don’t fly a flag at my home, unless someone walks by and sticks a tiny one in the ground in front of my house on Independence Day. I hate that, because then I have to be responsible for it. Oh, god, there’s an American flag, now I have to make sure nothing bad happens to it. What if someone comes by and is walking their dog and the dog decides it wants to pee on it? I will have to watch constantly to make sure this does not occur. It is a burden, the tiny lawn flag. People should never put anything at all on my yard, hanging from my front door, pasted to my car, none of that. I mean, it’s my shit, get off! Would I come up to you and paste a bunch of stickies on your face with my blog URL? As good as a marketing idea as that may be, I would never. If I were going to cover a stranger with stickies, it would just be for fun.

I think I was thoroughly traumatized as a youngster about the flag. In grade school, they made a big deal about saying the Pledge Of Allegiance while raising the flag outside every morning. Kids took turns helping to unfold the flag, get it on the flagpole, and get it to the proper height. Oh, how I hated this task. I remember a teacher screaming her lungs out at some kid who let a corner of the flag drop in the springtime mud of the schoolyard. “PICK THAT UP! YOU LET IT TOUCH THE GROUND!” The poor boy turned white, then gray, then greenish and nearly jumped out of his Red Ball Jets. I was just really glad it wasn’t me. Stand at attention, hand over your heart, or else! I thought, what’s the deal, it’s a piece of fabric, you can’t throw it out when it gets old, you have to bury or burn it in some ceremony? Like it’s people? U.S. Flag Code says the flag should be treated as “a living thing.” Now really, try and say that to a kid and their eyes will get really big, and then narrow. It’s.A.Flag.

Now I get that the flag is a symbol for many people, especially those unfortunate souls that had to live through being in a war or two or three. It stands for America and all that sort of freedom we enjoy here. It was probably a really super great thing to see after you’d been held in a Japanese POW camp for years, although I would think a nice busty American woman with a pretty smile would be even greater. And food that was not rancid rice. A woman and fresh food, those are good things to fight for. So, yes, I get what people think about the flag. But I look at it and know that it is a piece of nylon fabric, stitched together in some flag factory in China. The world won’t stop if it falls to the floor, is made into a snappy Mod-style jacket, or even if that dumb little dog pees on it.

I don’t think much of symbols that someone has assigned extra power to. I would rather spend some time thinking about a few of the individuals who, whether they volunteered or were conscripted into service, had to leave Here and go There. I would rather not say the Pledge of Allegiance to anything; I would rather say thanks to a man or woman who tried to deal with the games of the sick-minded and power-mad, probably saw things no one should ever see, and had to come back Here and make some sense of it. My take on being an American is that I can question Symbols and Pledges and Rules if I like, respect that some people have powerful attachments to Symbols and Pledges and Rules, and feel totally free to tell someone to get their peeing dog the hell off my yard.