National Flags

It feels strange to see the flags all over here in Pennsylvania after living in Japan’s outskirts for so long. I tend to identify with Arundhati Roy’s fairly famous qoute on flags (1), but I can respect William Astore’s take on the subject of USA flags too.

From Arundhati Roy’s Come September:

While this accusation doesn’t fill me with indignation, it’s not an accurate description of what I do or how I think. Because an ‘anti-national’ is a person who is against his or her own nation and, by inference, is pro some other one. But it isn’t necessary to be ‘anti-national’ to be deeply suspicious of all nationalism, to be anti-nationalism. Nationalism of one kind or another was the cause of most of the genocide of the twentieth century. Flags are bits of colored cloth that governments use first to shrink-wrap people’s brains and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead. [Applause] When independent- thinking people (and here I do not include the corporate media) begin to rally under flags, when writers, painters, musicians, film makers suspend their judgment and blindly yoke their art to the service of the "Nation," it’s time for all of us to sit up and worry. In India we saw it happen soon after the Nuclear tests in 1998 and during the Cargill War against Pakistan in 1999. In the U.S. we saw it during the Gulf War and we see it now during the "War Against Terror." That blizzard of Made-in-China American flags. [Laughter]

The blockquote below is from Whatever Happened to Gary Cooper. I was talking with some people trying to remember Gary Coopers name, we came up with Jimmy Stewart and a couple other people but not Gary Cooper – I guess no on had watched that Soprano’s episode.

I love our flag. I keep my father’s casket flag in a special display case next to the very desk on which I’m writing this piece. It reminds me of his decades of service as a soldier and firefighter. But I don’t need humongous stadium flags or, for that matter, tiny flag lapel pins to prove my patriotism — and neither should you. In fact, doesn’t the endless post-9/11 public proliferation of flags in every size imaginable suggest a certain fanaticism bordering on desperation? If we saw such displays in other countries, our descriptions wouldn’t be kindly.

Why do the Soprano’s appear in so much USA political commentary. It’s like everyone has internalized Chomky’s observation about State power and motivations being a lot like those of the ‘Mafia don’.

(1) Flags are bits of colored cloth that governments use first to shrink-wrap people’s minds and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead.

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