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September 06, 2008

Comments

Well let me be the first to say: disgusting.

I'll call b-s on that one too.

It's hard to give the term jagoff a bad name, but I think Inhofe manages it here.

I'm finally convinced that the Republicans hate this country so much that they would rather see it destroyed than allow someone that they don't agree with to have a voice in its governance.

Caesar's wife has to be above suspicion

A Republican doesn't know the definition of patriotism? You don't say...

Would somebody tell Inhofe that McCain wasn't wearing a flag pin during his speech on Thursday night? OMG!!! McCain's a closet communist!!! He hates America! He hates America!

Seriously, it's no wonder our country is in the crapper when morons like this get elected to run it.

Shorter Inhofe: "I am not questioning Sen. Obama's patriotism, but you have to."

What probably bothers me the most is to even consider the possibility--after two terms of Bush--that people could still fall for this crap.

Well let me be the first to say: disgusting.

Disgusting? Why so serious?

Watch, it's fun.

Regardless of what polls show, voters will have to ask themselves a question once they get behind the curtain in the voting booth on Election Day.

Do you really want to have a guy as US Senator from the great state of Oklahoma when you can question whether or not he is dumber than a box of rocks, and a lying weasel to boot?

Let me be clear.

I am not questioning Sen. Inhofe's intelligence or grasp of reality, but you have to question why at times he seems so obviously prone to public displays of an ignorance so profound that it darkens the sun.

See?

Thanks -

I find Inhofe to be such a loathsome blot on the government that I've given more money this election cycle to Andrew Rice than to anyone else (not that that is very much).

I wonder has it always been the case that patriotism means loudly espousing love of country while actually doing things to harm one's country, or was the word actually once used honestly by most people?

Obama needs to start saying:

"I love my country too much to see it suffer another 4 years of Republican mismanagement and cronyism. George Bush and John McCain do want 4 more years of the same approach. If you want 4 more years of the kind of love you've had from George W. Bush, run right out and vote for John McCain."

--TP

Inhofe has said so many sun-darkening things over the course of his relatively brief (and, I fervently hope, soon-to-be-over) career in the Senate that it can be hard to pick just one to remember him by. But this is my choice:

May 12, 2004, WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Republican member of the Senate Armed Services Committee dismissed Tuesday the outrage over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. troops ...

"I'm probably not the only one up at this table that is more outraged by the outrage than we are by the treatment," Sen. James Inhofe said during a hearing on the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

The hell of it is, I think this asininity is going to be a factor. A coworker of mine is really worried about Obama's lack of pariotism, and she's a professional in her early thirties who's not a Republican.

Sorry, Ben. We tried, but we just couldn't keep it.

As Sen. Biden would (and recently did) say, “What do you talk about when you cannot explain the last eight years of failure?

Do I live in some kind of subversive cocoon? Because I get out of the house frequently, and I rarely -- as in pretty much never -- see "public displays of patriotism and national pride, like wearing an American flag lapel pin," at least since all those post-9-11 car flags finished decomposing on their antennas.

But I guess we're supposed to pretend that the flag-pinners aren't the agenda-driven, exhibitionist outliers that they are. There's something sick in the public lies we tell ourselves.

"You know what... if you want me to wear 37 pieces of flair, like your pretty boy over there,... why don't you just make the minimum 37 pieces of flair?"

Obama wore a flag pin during his acceptance speech -- McCain didn't.

But I guess we're supposed to pretend that the flag-pinners aren't the agenda-driven, exhibitionist outliers that they are.

Jeez, I only wear this Union Jack button because Def Lep rocks so hard. No need to cast aspersions.

You'd think the voters of Oklahoma might get tired of having their Senator insult their intelligence.
The problem is that it's the voters of OK (and it's not just OK, either) who insult their own intelligence by electing people like this time after time.

Personally, I don't think intelligence has that much to do with it. I used to own some (worthless) farm land in NW OK, and know lots of otherwise intelligent people out there who think like this clown when it comes to politics. The thing that they all have in common is extreme xenophobia, in effing spades!

Fear of the unfamiliar. Fear of anything different from us and the way things have always been.

Fear is why people vote against their own best interests. When you're hanging on by a thread, any kind of change is terrifying, even if it offers to replace the need for the thread with things like a functional economy that includes you for a change and a social security (small esses) system that will provide for your needs while you're gearing up to participate in that economy -- all you can see is your thread and the threat posed to it by any kind of change.

And Oklahoma (and WV, KY, TN and the rural south) has always been full of folks just hanging on by a thread. That's why it's full of nutcase religionists and sends people like Inhofe to represent it in the great big scary outside world.

I often wonder if FDR realized just how great a truth he spoke when he said "All that we have to fear is fear, itself." That truth is more true and more important today that it ever has been in our nation's history, and Democrats and especially progressives have got to recognize it and learn to counter the fear or we're going to end up with more and more years of GWB type government until we do.

…at least since all those post-9-11 car flags finished decomposing on their antennas.

Not sure you want to go there.

Sarah Palin's husband was a member of a party that wants to leave the Union - or at least question its entry into the Union. Not that's loving America!!!

I read somewhere, OCS, that that story has been debunked. I'd look it up, but we both have lives. I wonder if the Governor of Alaska is being quoted accurately here.

Not sure you want to go there.

Already debunked.

CC: Yeah, you’re right. It will likely turn out to be untrue - or at least more nuanced.

I should say that I doubt it.

Already debunked.

Well, I’ll wait for a source other than Josh. But as I already said (cross posted), it would likely turn out to be untrue.

Isn't 'Sambo' a rather elitist racist slur term? Is [n-word] not good enough for her?
[/snark]

OCS, it doesn't matter whether it will "likely turn out to be untrue" because to self-proclaimed patriots the truth does not matter.

You may be exactly right in your estimation of how much of America thinks (as expressed on other threads) and I know your own heart is in the right place. So I ask you, as an objective and empirical question: if it turns out that Carl Cameron basically lied to FOX's viewers, will they hold it against him in any way?

My own guess is, no: they are by and large too patriotic to value the truth over The Flag. But I would be delighted to learn that I am wrong.

Just to foreclose my chance to ever run for president, BTW, let me say that I do not give a tinker's damn whether the Dem conventioneers threw away their little flags, or recycled them, or ate them with freedom fries. This may seem like indifference to the truth on my part, too. But it's an entirely different kind of indifference.

--TP

Well, I’ll wait for a source other than Josh. But as I already said (cross posted), it would likely turn out to be untrue.

It should be easy enough to prove. Wasn't there video of McCain's campaign appearance? If there were garbage bags of flags brought out as a stunt, I think it would have gotten more than a little play.

Well, I’ll wait for a source other than Josh.

What exactly is wrong with Josh? I know he has a PhD and lives in NYC, but is there anything he's done that suggests that he's untrustworthy or dishonest or incompetent? I mean, you were willing to trust Hot Air, so why doesn't Josh get the benefit of the doubt as well.

Do I live in some kind of subversive cocoon?

I can't be sure, but since Obama felt compelled to weave jingoistic nonsense such as his gut instinct – that America is the greatest country on earth into his otherwise quite interesting speech on patriotism, since he felt the need to reiterate right-wing talking points on Vietnam and slam Clarke for daring to mention that being shot down in a fighter plane is not a qualification for the presidency - since he felt the need to do all that, the rhetorical climate in the US seems indeed to be dominated rather strongly by flag-waving morons. I wish they were a fringe group, but it sure doesn't look like it.

Disingenuousness is a bipartisan affliction here in the Sooner State. Our one Democratic Congressman, Dan Boren, has said that while he plans to vote for Obama, he will not endorse him, prompting David Boren, former Senator and Dan's father, to quip that perhaps his son doesn't understand what the word "endorse" means.

As for Inhofe, please do question his intelligence and his grasp of reality.

And support Andrew Rice, his Democratic opponent who, unlike Barack Obama, has a real, albeit small, chance of winning in Oklahoma.

Turb: What exactly is wrong with Josh? I know he has a PhD and lives in NYC, but is there anything he's done that suggests that he's untrustworthy or dishonest or incompetent?

Nothing wrong with him. I have nothing against PhD’s. Or NYC. I love to visit there. He makes his bias completely clear – and I applaud him for that. I wish everyone practicing journalism did the same. But he has a dog in this hunt… Just like H/A.

I threw it out there, because the “post-9-11 car flags…decomposing on their antennas” irritated me. P*ssed me off actually. And I said a few minutes later that it was likely untrue.

Latest:

I just spoke with the person at Invesco who found the flags and he thinks both sides are exaggerating a bit. The person claims the majority of the bags with flags in them were near the trash, on a dock, and would have been thrown away. The person thinks it was probably an “oversight” by the Democrats rather than any nefarious plot against the flag. But the person doesn’t believe anyone was coming to get them: “The flags were there for a week and a day and no one came looking for them.”

Okay, OCSteve. As Brian Williams said to Jon Stewart, are we really doing this?

Good: look at the picture in the article you linked to. Lots of flags in green trash bags. Every flag neatly rolled on its staff, flags neatly bundled in the bags. Photo submitted by some GOP flack. Now, either:

1)That's how the flags were "found" on some loading dock, in which case Democrats arrange their trash awfully neatly; or,

2)Republicans spent a lot of time neatly rolling up Dem-discarded flags and then put them into trash bags themselves!

Pick one.

--TP

My question for OCSteve (or whomever) is, why is this Democrats-threw-out-flags! story important to you? *Even if it were true* (which IMHO it is not), what would it signify?

What the Republican reaction looks like to me is idol-worship, fetishization. Flags are not particularly *good* symbols for a country: in the case of the US flag, for instance, they're objectively ugly and poorly-designed. They have no nuance, no complexity, no thought, no expression. A flag is not just simple, it's simplistic.

And what flags are for is war. Flags were developed to give soldiers something easily identifiable to follow or rally around -- they *have* to be simple and visually blunt to do that job. The Constitution would be a very poor battlefield token. And soldiers, in turn, need to be trained to react strongly to the flag, to follow it without taking vital time for thinking.

But what Republicans seem to be demanding is for civilians to have that kind of reaction, that kind of unthinking, reflexive response to a simple visual stimulus. This is not just idolatry, this is militarism -- which IMHO is a perversion of human society, whether it leads to Sparta or the Nuremburg Rallies.

I threw it out there, because the “post-9-11 car flags…decomposing on their antennas” irritated me. P*ssed me off actually.

Why, did the truth hurt too much? People put flags on their cars as a cheap, showy sign of patriotism, but they apparently didn't really care in the slightest about how to care for them properly. I saw more bedraggled, decrepit flags every day in the months following 9/11 than I've seen in the rest of my life put together. I even found one half shredded car flag lying in a gutter.

"Not sure you want to go there."

No, idiotic offensive lies always need to be confronted. I didn't used to think that, but I was entirely wrong.

"It will likely turn out to be untrue - or at least more nuanced."

So why are you presenting it as if it were true, and warning people not to bring up flags?

"Well, I’ll wait for a source other than Josh."

Why don't you wait for a credible source for the original story?

For what it's worth, as someone who actually had just such a flag: they were little flags -- paper? plastic? certainly not cloth. Maybe 7" x 9". As I was leaving Invesco Stadium, I thought: what am I going to do with this? I didn't want to keep it, particularly: I have flags, I don't need another, and after spending my youth holding onto mementos of interesting occasions, I decided at a certain point that that was pointless.

I didn't want to throw it out, though: partly just because, but partly also because I thought: I'll be damned if I give someone at e.g. RedState an occasion to say: oh, lefty bloggers throw out their flags. I eventually found a table on which sat another flag, and I left it there, hoping the DNC had some plans to deal with the flags.

But the thing is: so what? I would have felt differently had it been a real flag -- which is, in my mind, the sort of thing one might put on a flagpole. Big. Cloth. This was (in my mind) closer to one of those little flags you might put on the birthday cake of a kid born close to the 4th of July. Bigger, but in the same genre -- not a flag but a "flag".

I wonder: do people save those little cake flags? Or every single paper flag they've ever waved at a fourth of July picnic? If not, does it show that they are less patriotic? I don't think so.

Should I have asked myself, before taking the flag: self, are you prepared to hold onto this little (I think) paper flag until it molders away altogether? Are you prepared to accept this flag and the commitment it entails? I do, in fact, ask myself such questions about (what I think of as) "real" flags. Was it wrong of me not to ask about this one?

I think that at this point, one begins to get into the realm of the surreal. There is a good reason not to throw little paper flags away: namely, the existence of people who take pictures of them and accuse liberals of throwing their flags away. But I do not see that patriotism is such a reason.

I saw more bedraggled, decrepit flags every day in the months following 9/11 than I've seen in the rest of my life put together. I even found one half shredded car flag lying in a gutter.

So did I. It went from minor things like flags flying at night unlit out of laziness to flags dragging on the ground to flags faded and ripped in half. My love for this country is more to do with the people who live in it and the constitutional principles it's supposed to stand for than a brightly colored piece of cloth. Still, it's just the attitude: like everything else the Uber-Patriots do, they made a token effort, patted themselves loudly on the back and considered themselves morally superior, then gave it no more thought and let it rot and die out of carelessness.

Also: if the Republicans had flags, as I imagine they did, it would just astonish me if none of them were thrown away. That's what happens when you hand out tens of thousands of something. For the same reason, it would astonish me if not a single Democratic flag had ended up in the trash. Because I think it's just as likely to have happened in either place, and for the reasons mentioned above, I don't think this means much of anything. Certainly not that Republicans don't care about their country.

ericblair: is one supposed to light flags?

Let me get this straight: last week the complaint was that there weren't any flags at the Democratic National Convention.

Now the Ministry of Truth has decided the Democrats have always been at war with East Asia, and had too many zillions of flags and hadn't yet, what, had a ceremonial burning of them?

First of all, anyone who measures what's important in an election by measuring how many flags are waved, well, do I really have to finish this sentence?

Way to not understand what freedom and the Bill of Rights and our entire set of ideals of government is all about.

http://www.ushistory.org/betsy/flagetiq.html>flag etiquette

btw and ftr, I posted the flag etiquette link in response to hilzoy's question about lighting, not as a commentary on the "larger" topic.

Could someone please direct me to a picture of the flags that actually had the dumpster nearby? Because so far I haven't seen it. The only picture I've seen is of flags standing next to a wall, and rolled in bags. Is there another picture?

"ericblair: is one supposed to light flags?"

As I just pointed out either earlier today or yesterday on a thread here, flags are supposed to be either taken down at sunset, or illuminated if left standing, until dawn.

And flags are not to be left out when it rains, but taken in. Nor should flags be left flying if they're becoming worn, but should be replaced.

More here or here or here. I got it in the Cub Scout Handbook at age 7 or so.

Thank you Gary.

A couple of other rules I'd like to point out, that I'm sure every Republican has scrupulously adhered to over the years:

(i) The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.
(j) No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform.
Also, btw, if you're a civilian, you don't salute with hand to head, but with hand on heart. That includes the president.

Me yesterday at 10:49 PM.

I still haven't figured out why anybody cares about a flag, anyway. This one's a poor design, at best. But I also don't understand how someone 'loves' a country. It's a concept I just don't get. Really, how do you do that?

Ah. I had (until it finally disintegrated) a flag flying from a pole that doesn't make it easy to take down, and has no obvious source of illumination. It was on the house that way when I bought it; I asked if I could keep it, and the seller agreed.

Looking at the Flag Code, of whose existence I was unaware, I see that the fact that there is enough illumination in the area to make the flag visible makes it OK. Until now, I just thought you had to treat flags with respect, and burn them when they had deteriorated beyond repair.

I also very much liked this bit: "The flag is not a decoration, it is the symbol of a living nation. It is not to be trivialized by well-meaning but thoughtless uses, such as being used as mint wrappers."

All these folks have been pledging allegiance to this flag all of their lives. Remember, they're seriously symbolically challenged -- they can't tell the difference between map and territory.

The next time you hear somebody recite the Pledge, listen to the way the lines get parsed:

I pledge allegiance
to the Flag
of the United States of America.

And to the republic
for which it stands,
one nation
under god,
with liberty and justice for all.

The second part is obviously subordinate.

ok, I get that we're into flag etiquitte now, but ...
really can someone please direct me to a picture of the flags that actually had the dumpster nearby? Because so far I haven't seen it. The only picture I've seen is of flags standing next to a wall, and rolled in bags. Is there another picture?


"Looking at the Flag Code, of whose existence I was unaware, I see that the fact that there is enough illumination in the area to make the flag visible makes it OK."

I was always told (as a Cub and Boy Scout, and at summer camps) that the interpretation was either you have a light specifically trained on the flag at night, or it comes down. Not general illumination.

To be sure, I've seen municipalities that violate this rule.

It's always bothered the hell out of me.

To just go with one cite, this is the full U.S. Code on the flag.

On night time display:

[...] §174. Time and occasions for display

(a) Display on buildings and stationary flagstaffs in open; night display
It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed twenty-four hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.

(b) Manner of hoisting
The flag should be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously.

(c) Inclement weather
The flag should not be displayed on days when the weather is inclement, except when an all weather flag is displayed.

This site advises:
I fly my flag at home 24 hours a day. What does "properly illuminated" mean?
Section 6a: "It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed twenty-four hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness."

The Flag Code offers no additional guidance on this question. We interpret this to mean that there should be either a light directly upon the flag or that there be sufficient local lighting to make the flag easily visible at night.

If you cannot "properly illuminate" your flag, we recommend that you retire it at sunset, as the Flag Rules specify.

Have the "properly illuminated" rules been relaxed since 9/11 or for energy conservation?
No. There has been no revision of the Flag Code and there has been no Presidential Proclamation changing the guidelines for respectful display of the flag at night. Section 6a: "when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed twenty-four hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness."

So there's wiggle room on "proper illumination."

I go with what I was consistently taught in the Boy Scouts, which is specific illumination as the proper display of respect. It seems to me consistent with the notion that flying the flag is either a specific act of respect, or not. Permanent fixtures that require no care or thought seem inconsistent with that, to me. It seems to me that respect requires a minimum of thought, and care.

And specifically, if the flag can't be taken down, now can you take it down in inclement weather? If it can't be taken down in inclement weather, it shouldn't be displayed at all. And how do you replace it when it grows worn? How do you wash it when it grows soiled? I don't see any flexibility in this in the Code, which I simply grew up with, in unpatriotic non-small-town Brooklyn, NY, where I hear we're not supposed to care, according to some folks. Displaying a worn or soiled flag is as bad as burning it, or mutilating it. I'm 100% fine with burning the flag as a protest and a political gesture, but displaying an uncared-for flag: what kind of act of respect would that be? A symbol that one doesn't care about the flag?

But that's me. And we're all influenced by what we were taught as kids.

Mind, the flag remains a piece of cloth; I don't think it's worth anything without respect for the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, and the people of the United States of America. The flag is just a symbol.

"Really, how do you do that?"

I love the ideals of the Bill of Rights, and our constitutional rights, and our attempts, sporadic as they may be, to live up to them.

And I hate our failures.

Otherwise, a country is an idea, and it's as easy or hard to love as any idea.

Hilzoy, I loved your first-person account of dealing with your convention flag. In particular:

Should I have asked myself, before taking the flag: self, are you prepared to hold onto this little (I think) paper flag until it molders away altogether? Are you prepared to accept this flag and the commitment it entails? I do, in fact, ask myself such questions about (what I think of as) "real" flags. Was it wrong of me not to ask about this one?:
In a world less full of morons than our own, people (Republicans included) would routinely ask themselves those questions -- and there would be far fewer flags as a result. Or perhaps, fewer objects would be revered as The Flag.

The meaning of this whole flag gag is that some GOP operatives in Colorado are shameless hypocrites. And kinda stupid: most Americans, I bet, have thrown away cheap disposable flags at one time or another, and will fail to be outraged even if they believe the GOP's improbable story.

--TP

Gary, Thank you, again.

"I love the ideals of the Bill of Rights, and our constitutional rights, and our attempts, sporadic as they may be, to live up to them.

And I hate our failures."

I'm just feeling right now that our failures are too numerous and deep to hope that our ideals will overcome. That makes me sad in ways I can't express.

I propose another important amendement to the constitution: In any place where large numbers of US flags (or equivalents) are present care has to be taken for their dignified disposal through the presence of a federal official appointed by the president with the approval of the senate. Also there has to be at least one fire extinguisher for every ten flags (or one for every 50, if the flags are fireproof).
---
Was the rockets' red glare a proper illumination in the sense of the flag code? ;-)
---
Too lazy to look it up: Is the flag even mentioned in the US constitution (it is in the German, briefly)?
---
Just my personal taste: A flag should at least be slightly worn (not in tatters though) and not made from shiny materials. I find that more dignified.

OCSteve: Not sure you want to go there.

So, let's see: you're willing to cite Carl Cameron of Fox News, via Hot Air, as a valid source for a story that "thousands" of flags were thrown in the trash after the DNC.

You are unwilling to accept any debunking of the story from any source that opposes the Bush administration, such as Josh Marshall, or Nico Pitney at the Huffington Post. Because they have "a dog in this fight".

Now you're running away going "Hey, I'm sure that story I cited will turn out not to be true" - just as soon as a "reliable" - ie, not a source that's consistently and reliably debunked the lies told by the Bush administration about much more serious and complex matters in the past - source can tell you it is not true.

This is an awfully petty point, but is this unthinking acceptance of lies told to you by Fox News against Democratic politicians and uncomplaining acceptance of lies told to you by Republican politicians just always how you feel about being lied to?

Hartmut: I propose another important amendement to the constitution: In any place where large numbers of US flags (or equivalents) are present care has to be taken for their dignified disposal through the presence of a federal official appointed by the president with the approval of the senate. Also there has to be at least one fire extinguisher for every ten flags (or one for every 50, if the flags are fireproof).

*g*

Coming from a country with no official national flag and no regulations at all about civilian use of the unofficial national flag on land, the whole thing does strike me as being a bit of a tempest in a teacup. Still, if there are rules, certainly large organisations ought to keep them.

The meaning of this whole flag gag is that some GOP operatives in Colorado are shameless hypocrites.

We have a winner.

Thanks -

Given the way the story seems to be shaping up here, I await (but am not holding my breath) some Republican, somewhere, saying "We apologize. The proper thing to do, when the flags were found, would have been to notify the appropriate parties at Invesco Field and the Colorado Democratic Party. Please accept our check for the cost of the flags which were removed without permission."

I love the ideals of the Bill of Rights, and our constitutional rights, and our attempts, sporadic as they may be, to live up to them.

And I hate our failures.

Otherwise, a country is an idea, and it's as easy or hard to love as any idea.

I see it the other way around, actually: the ideals you mention are universal and international, both by their genesis and their nature. They might be implemented differently in various countries, but they exist apart from that implementation, even in countries where they are implemented insufficiently or not at all. I love those ideals, but they are not tied to any country. On the other hand, I don't love a country as an idea, in fact I don't love a country as a whole at all. Rather, I love something much more tangible, namely certain regions, cities or towns, where I have lived or spent time, worked and made friends.

re: lightning @ 12:12 AM
It was late and you were typing fast. I'm sure by the cold light of day "indivisible" would have made it into your "pledge."

hilzoy: When asking yourself a question, do you really start off with "Self..."?

Novakant, we have a patrimony, as humans and as Americans, that is worth standing up for. We're embarked upon a centuries long project, and each of us has opportunities to defend and advance that project. From your prior comments, I take it that you consider our devotion to this project to be a kind of sickness; it may be, but those "universal" ideals didn't implement themselves.

Hartmut, there's no mention of the flag in the Constitution. Nonetheless, I'm kind of surprised that Hil wasn't more aware of the legal and formal aspects of flag etiquette. I learned it as a kid, along (I thought) with everyone else. I mostly only apply that knowledge these days when visiting my parents: my mom has the flag that draped her father's coffin, and they fly it regularly, rather than hiding it in the closet. That flag gets lowered at sundown, and folded right.

I cheat at my own house: on holidays, when I'm in the mood, I put up my http://flagspot.net/flags/us-ben.html>Bennington battle flag. It's not the national flag, and so if I don't get around to taking it down at sundown, no sin has been committed.

xanax--
I always figured she not only does that, but she swivels from side to side while alternating between querent and respondent.

xanax: yes, sometimes. One of those things that I thought was funny the first time, and then it just stuck.

Charley: I put it down to my never having been in scouting, and maybe also to my Mom being a furriner.

on holidays, when I'm in the mood, I put up my Bennington battle flag.

Continental flag for me.

Thanks -

I don't think you guys have any idea how funny flag talk and flag accusations are to non-Americans. So very very strange and confusing to me.

"I don't think you guys have any idea how funny flag talk and flag accusations are to non-Americans."

I have a fine idea. Yes, it's almost as if different countries have different customs and ways, it's so remarkable. Of course, if an America were to remark about how strange and funny the ways of another country were, they might be taken for being condescending, rude, arrogant, or the like.

I have a hard time grasping what you are trying to get at here, CharleyCarp.

Are you arguing that these ideas are not universal, that they haven't been around in one form or another since the dawn of man, that there is something specifically "American" about them?

Do you think the chauvinism and nationalism, which I have criticized in an earlier post, is a necessary by-product of the implementation of these ideas?

Do you think cosmopolitanism is undermining rather than strengthening these ideas?

Meh, my country has lots of stupid customs. I think all countries do. I didn't mean it to be personal or attacking. Tone can be tricky in writing.

Gary, I think Jason is right to point out how peculiar USan flag-worship is. One thing you should also notice is how closely flag rituals are associated to the Boy Scouts -- a movement that came out of pre-WWI militarism. The fact that most USans know at least some flag etiquette just IMHO proves how militarized (militarism-ized?) US civilian culture has become.

I don't think you guys have any idea how funny flag talk and flag accusations are to non-Americans.

I have some idea; much of it seems very strange and artificial to me. But I think that makes sense because in a real sense the USA is an artificial country. We don't all share a common ancestry or common story, so we lack many of the traditional targets for national feeling. The things that unite us as a country are too abstract to serve as effective symbols, so we've created a whole set of artificial ones. It's a really strange idea, and it's doubly strange because of how well it works.

I think our Anglo-American heritage is materially different. It's not the only tradition worthy of note or respect. It does, to my mind, contain a more effective path towards human freedom than most. Is much of this borrowed? Sure. There's no Roger Williams without a Martin Luther.

Nationalism is a by-product of successful implementation, yes. In the imperfect state in which mankind lives. Violence, too. Those slaves weren't freed by best wishes, nor were the Germans embarrassed out of France in the 1940s.

I think cosmopolitanism is irrelevant as a force of human civilization at this point.

The fact that most USans know at least some flag etiquette just IMHO proves how militarized (militarism-ized?) US civilian culture has become.

What time frame are you thinking of, Doctor Science? I don't think it's a very recent development.

My own knowledge of flag etiquette, or even of the fact that there is such a thing as flag etiquette, comes from my childhood; I was born in 1950. My dad and all my uncles served in WWII, and memories of the war (both of combat and of the home front) were a vivid presence to us kids. For that matter, the memory of my grandfather's time in the trenches in France in WWI was a matter of explicit memory and pride til my grandma died in 1979 (my grandpa died in 1926).

If a focus on flag-waving and parades with military elements is some measure of the "militarization of civilian life," then in my experience, and despite the flag-waving self-righteousness of a segment of the population ("united we stand" and similar nauseating garbage), civilian life was more militarized when I was a child than it is now.

Of course, when I was a child so many of the adult men of the right age had served in the military during the war that the military was part of the experience of virtually every family. Not so today.....

Well, since we couldn't be further apart ideologically in this regard, I guess we can only agree to disagree, Charley.

JanieM:

The time frame I'm thinking of is "since around WWI", so yes, I'm including both our lifetimes (I was born in 1956), and comparing them to the 19th century*. It certainly is connected with the fact that our parents' generation saw mandaory military service, but even more IMHO with the post-WWII decision to keep a large standing army and the military-industrial complex of which Eisenhower warned.

But the roots go back further than WWII, into the early 20th century where the Scout movement began as a way to prepare boys for future participation in a mass army. Baden-Powell, like many in his day, was worried that that the "general population armies" he could see coming -- and which WWI brought -- would find that most young men weren't physically and psychologically prepared to be soldiers. Scouting was intended as pre-military training, and in the US at least the flag cult became part of that.

The Pledge of Allegiance came out of the same period as Scouting, and originally came with a salute modelled on that of the Roman legions -- but which the Fascists also adopted, whoops.

This isn't meant to sound condescending, but the flag veneration is something that other countries had in different forms, but have gotten over. I've seen an illustration where a Czarist Russian general is kissing the flag of Mother Russia before he takes the troops to meet the Japanese. You go to Westminster Abbey and see the battle flags of the various regiments, and read stories of standard bearers in the Civil War and others, and it makes it clear that this US flag worship is, in an attenuated form, an extension of that.

I think this stretches back to Rome, and the legion standard, or the aquila, which was supposed to be the embodiment of the legion's honor. It seems like flag veneration is part of our European heritage and the US has not, for various reasons, gotten far enough along the road to get over it.

I realize that this makes out the US as 'immature' when compared to European nations, but looking at the history, I think there is a progression.

oops, dropped my footnote:

*for descriptions of 19th-C society I'm thinking particularly of Twain, Alcott, and Laura Ingalls Wilder. IIRC they do not mention flags outside Fourth of July, parades or elections. Certainly every household -- even every middle-class household -- did not have a flag.

I don't think you have anything to apologize for, Jason. And yeah, probably most countries have customs that would seem stupid to outsiders, and perhaps rightly so.

I have some idea; much of it seems very strange and artificial to me. But I think that makes sense because in a real sense the USA is an artificial country.

As opposed to all those naturally-occurring countries, whose borders are visible from space just as they appear on the maps.

Doctor Science -- thanks for the fleshing out.

Maybe this is just a quibble, but it seems to me that it isn't our whole culture (whatever that is) that's obsessed with the flag. It's a pushy, vocal, self-righteous, and to me scary subset of the population that is using flag-worship as a test of its own self-serving definition of patriotism.

And the "militarism" is weird too. Again, it is far from being the case that the bulk of the population has anything direct to do with the military. So it isn't that the whole society is "militarized" the way it was during WWII, when almost every family had someone in the esrvice; it's that there's a dominating (?) mindset that says that our outlandishly huge military is the first, last, best, and only viable tool of international relations.

Or something like that. This isn't my field, and I'm in danger of a rant. I'm just trying to explore what the term "militarism" means and why it doesn't quite seem to quite get to the heart of (what I consider to be) our problem. Not that I disagree with you about the phenomena, perhaps; it's just the terminology.

Hi Janie, I haven't read it, but judging by the reviews this seems to be a good book on militarism in contemporary US society:

Andrew Bacevich - The New American Militarism

lj --

Notice that all the examples you cite are in specifically military contexts. *That*'s why I'm saying the flag cult in the modern US is militaristic -- it's a military behavior that has become normal & accepted in our civilian culture.

heh heh heh novakent joins my conspiracy. Here's my review of that book, which comes with my highest recommendation.

that's novak*a*nt, of course. *slaps self with trout*

Doctor Science,
Sorry, I was trying to support Jason's point, not attempting to counter yours. I do think that it is militaristic and I think it should give us some pause. Sorry for the confusion.

I'm pretty sure no one I know personally worships the flag.

It's quite an immense gloss to take all the various approaches to flag etiquette, from simple respecting of the flag code, to a near-religious veneration of the flag with a disregard for the values of the Bill of rights (epitomized by wanting to violate the Bill of Rights by making flag-burning illegal), and everything on the spectrum in between those two positions, and regard them all as homogenous and identical.

Anyone with that view holds an extremely confused and ignorant view of the variety and disparity of American responses to the flag within those two boundaries. It's confusing and conflating a harmless set of customs with an ignorance of civil rights, and a form of bigotry and extremism.

I don't think calling it all a "cult" is particularly enlightening, either. It's on par with referring to people flashing the "V" for a peace symbol as members of a "cult," and implying that anyone who has ever done so is something on the order of an enthused member of A.N.S.W.E.R. or a member of the Communist Party. It's simplistic to an extreme.

Or, having previewed, see what JanieM said.

novakant and DS, I will put Bacevich's book on my (admittedly lengthy) list. I see that he is appearing at a book forum at the Harvard Bookstore (where I spend many a passing half-hour in the used book basement when I am in Cambridge) on 9/26. Too bad, I'm heading home Friday.

Doctor Science -- okay, processing slowly here, but I just realized that one of the things that bothers me about the notion that US civilian culture has been "militarized" is the same thing that bothers me when the "other side" (from me, an over-educated gay agnostic East coast liberal elite snob etc.) in the culture war claims that they are the true Americans, implying that I'm ... something else.

I don't think the fact that I know something about flag etiquette means that I am a cog in a "militarized" culture. (Or: what Gary said.) As I said before, there is a subset (how big or small I don't know, but I would bet that in its extremer form it's very far from the majority) of Americans who are flag-obsessed and very vocal and righteous about it. But for vast, vast numbers of people, there is just simply nothing about daily life that I would call "militarized." To say we live in a militarized culture seems to me to mistake the part for the whole, like saying that America is "white" or "Christian." It just isn't.

Also -- to take flag-obsession as a symptom of militarization seems like taking Christmas trees as a symptom of Christianity.

I'm not arguing that there isn't a militaristic element to the flag-worship (though I'd sooner call it jingoistic), just that I am skeptical of the claim that some overarching "civilian life" in the US is particularly militaristic. It feels less so to me than it did when I was younger. That it's more so than it was in 1850 (let's say) ... doesn't seem very relevant, given that so much else is also so different from the way it was in 1850.

I'll go back to this: "One thing you should also notice is how closely flag rituals are associated to the Boy Scouts -- a movement that came out of pre-WWI militarism."

It's one thing to note that Baden-Powell had some motives, and was of his time, and another to verge on implying that the Boy Scouts are just a few steps below the Hitler Youth, and are a deeply alarming sign of how militarized U.S. society is.

Me, I was a Cub Scout, and did a couple of years of Boy Scouts, rising to the exalted status of Second Class Scout, and Assistant Patrol Leader. We got to go on a few nice camping trips and hikes and weekends to places like Bear Mountain. That was exotic for a lad from Brooklyn.

As it happens, as a leftist kid, who got into a big fight with P.S. 99 in second or third grade when a teacher insisted that the Pledge of Allegience was mandatory, and I cited the Supreme Court Jehovah's Witness case, and insisted that I couldn't be made to say it or punished or singled out if I declined, and had to bring my parents in for a conference with the Assistant Principal, and lawyers were threatened, and so forth, as that kind of kid who was raised to worship civil rights, and who fanatically researched their history, and joined the ACLU as soon as he could, I was uncomfortable with some of the more militaristic aspects of the Boy Scouts as put forward by our troop, and quit partially because of some of those feelings, but I still don't think the Boy Scouts are particularly Deeply Alarming, and tend to regard such alarm as often -- not always -- overblown, and the leftist equivalent of some on the right harrumphing about the Decadence of Today's Youth And Culture, the dreadful prevalence of swear words in movies, and the like.

We could probably all do with a bit less Viewing With Alarm, and generalizing.

(I say this as someone who was a bit uneasy the other night with an Army recruiting music video attached to Vicky Christina Barcelona which struck me as uncomfortably blithe about the fact that you'll see a lot of ugly viscera if you're in combat, more than you'll see shiny admirable marching and violence as undisturbing as a video game, and btw, PTSD may also be part of the package.)

As for the flag, I'm anal-retentive in general; the fact that I think if something is worth doing, it's worth doing right, does not, I think, go very far to demonstrating that I'm a proto-fascist.

And I'm willing to extend that thought to other people who don't want to surrender symbols of our country to those who are, indeed, lacking in cognizance of what the ideals of the Bill of Rights are all about. I'm not willing to surrender the flag and such symbols to Pat Buchanan and Sarah Palin and John McCain and supporters of George W. Bush.

If that makes me and Hilzoy and CharleyCarp -- a guy who has spent immense amounts of time flying to Guantanamo to defend prisoners, as one of his acts of patriotism -- unthinkingly contributing to the militarization of our country through unthinking fetishization of the flag, or whathaveyou, so be it.

Can't speak for the individual but a general "obsession" with the flag in a culture seems a symptom of immaturity to me (as does the obsession with certain* sports). There is a difference between "just" honoring a custom (or at least respecting the sensibilities of others about them) and giving those customs a "transcendental" importance. "Flag-worship" was essentially and deliberately wiped out in Germany after 1945 for good reasons. The recurrence in recent years** (e.g. during the World Cup) is in my eyes not a good sign because the nationalist "habits" also rised their nasty heads in that connection.
If it was up to me, (national) flags would be limited to official use.
I recommend Kipling's story "The Flag of their Country" for a literary take on patriotism and flag (ab)use.

*depending on country, not specifially aimed at the US
**often violating the specific flag laws, e.g. who may use what specific flag.

But for vast, vast numbers of people, there is just simply nothing about daily life that I would call "militarized."

As far as the impact on society goes, I think you're on the right track here. The US, despite being armed to the teeth, isn't militarized in the same way, say, Prussia was. But I think this phenomenon is captured quite well in the term neomilitarism.

I swear, I only use my nuclear-powered ballistic missile sub in the bathtub.

I don't think the fact that I know something about flag etiquette means that I am a cog in a "militarized" culture.

No, but it means that you live in a country that thinks knowing about flag etiquette is an important thing. In contrast, as a UK citizen I know nothing about flag etiquette. Judging from this there is almost none, and no-one knows what it is anyhow. And this is despite the fact that the UK invented the Scouts and were rather heavily involved in both world wars.

I can understand that the US has a lot of ritual around particular symbols to make up for the lack of a monarchy and its rituals, and that both will look equally ridiculous to an outsider. There are monarchists who care greatly about people who are rude about the Queen and how you speak to the daughter of an earl. The point is, that this is now largely kept separate from politics. If in the UK influential people (rather than fringe elements) argue that because someone didn't swear allegiance to the queen, they are unfit to govern, that would worry me a lot.

magistra -- Without question the antics surrounding our US presidential campaigns, not to mention everything about the current administration, and almost everything about the current Republicn Party, "worry me a lot." "Worry me," in fact, doesn't come close to describing it.

But that's a different discussion. That it's the flag they obsess on (some genuinely if mindlessly (by definition if it's an obsession, imho), and others for the sake of manipulating the first set) instead of the queen still doesn't mean "civilian life" is "militarized."

I know some flag etiquette because my dad, uncles, and grandmother cared about it 50+ years ago, and I'm a nerd who likes to know the rules (whether flags or sentence structure; and I didn't say "follow"). But despite this discussion, I think that if you gave a everyone a quiz, probably most people in this country would do just as badly on the flag part as the sentence structure part, and that's saying something. It's a loud minority making a big deal about this. The fact that "the country" doesn't "think" (if a country could think) it's important to know flag etiquette is evidenced, if you live here, by how often the people using the flag as a stick to beat other people with display it in ways that violate the etiquette.

novakant -- I will check out "neomilitarism" later. I'm supposed to be at work.

"Flag-worship" was essentially and deliberately wiped out in Germany after 1945 for good reasons.

And yet, amazingly, it's still illegal to desecrate it.

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