I used to put my American flag out every Flag Day and fly it proudly all summer. Then 9/11 happened. Like others I was stunned. I set my flag to half mast. I was cheered by the flags that began to appear everywhere. I was moved by the outpouring of American unity, of world-wide support and sentiment. All right I was taken aback by the neighbor who taped a row of little plastic flags to a sheet of plywood propped up by two garbage cans at the end of his driveway on which he spray painted (in red, white, and blue) the words: "God Bless America! Nuke Them All!" That was not at all what I thought America stood for.
Then two American citizens who were Sikhs, members of a very peaceful religion who happen to wear beards and turbans that look similar to Osama bin Laden's, were beaten up on a local university campus. I chalked it up to the emotional extremes of the times and hoped it wouldn't happen again. But it did.
Then we invaded Afghanistan and I was confused. Weren't the terrorists who flew those planes on 9/11 mostly from Saudi Arabia? Why Afghanistan? And soon we were gearing up to invade Iraq. . . because of terrorists. . . No, because of nuclear bombs Hussein was going to use on us. . . a preemptive strike (never mind that the only people on the planet who have ever really used atomic weapons on another people was us). . . No wait--no WMDs? He's got chemical weapons (never mind that we gave them to him)? Instead we are bringing democracy to Iraq? How's that work again? We bomb the hell out of them until we can call it a free country and then sell them franchises in McDonalds? Built them some Walmarts?
And "United We Stand" which seemed to mean something back when I was a kid--and which felt real for a while after 9/11--now feels more like "United Stand WE against" all YOU who are poor or gay or black or brown or Asian or immigrants or union or any religion other than Christian or all you who act too frigging liberal for the rest of us good democracy loving (except when we want you to vote OUR way for president) REAL Americans.
So where does that leave me? Well, I used to be proud to be American. Now I am just confused about what American means. And so I'm not waving a flag anymore. Not until we come to our colective senses. If the Patriot Act doesn't let someone lock me up first.
Silly me, I thought it was a free country.