In this southwest Denver neighborhood, there are American flags flying at the houses to my left and right, across the street, and kitty-corner across another street. It takes a short walk to see another house besides ours without a display of the red, white and blue.
The other day I picked up a prescription at Rite-Aid (now owned by Walgreen’s, or so it's been said) and the pharmacist asked if I had a Rite-Aid card. "Would that get me a discount?" He said, "No, it's a loyalty thing." My high school song ended with "So praise our great victories, and may they always say, that if I ever will be loyal, t'will be to thee Farmington High." So as a kid, my loyalty was demanded by my country, by the prevalent Christian religion, and the high school. It starts early. Apparently it's the drug store now, too.
Displaying the flag is a sign of patriotic loyalty — or is it merely the appearance of loyalty to cover any number and kinds of dirty deeds? Congressmen are often heard to say, when criticizing another lawmaker's action, "I'm not questioning his patriotism, I'm questioning his judgment." Because we dare not question anyone's patriotism. So the question becomes, if an institution, or religion, or an individual demands loyalty in some form — why, if they are so wonderful, do they need to demand loyalty? If they're really so terrific, wouldn't people happily, by choice, stick with them?
Why must the presidential candidates (I can't bear to mention their names, but they all do it) appear in front of a backdrop of flags? So no one will question their patriotism? Or do they think they are assuring the suckers of their sincerity, their wholesome all-American-ness.
I had a big American flag once, used it for a bedspread. But once in a while I'd fly it for irony's sake because I am so un-American. A friend in Sausalito, a German I'll call Fritz, got himself a nice sailboat and took a bunch of us out on Richardson Bay. Fritz went below and came back with his father's swastika flag, a genuine relic of nazi Germany and a clue to his heritage, and hauled it up the mast. So there we were, in view of all the houses on the hills above, sailing around with a nazi's son, swastika flying. Was Fritz being ironic? I doubt anyone saw irony in my stars and stripes, which made it all the more ironic. But there isn't much in the way of irony or humor with a swastika, even if Fritz meant it that way. Which is doubtful if you knew him.
If this country is really exceptional, why do they pound the idea into our heads every day? Why must football games have military jet flyovers?