[Marxism] American flags
lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Mar 24 08:57:35 MST 2004
Last night as I watched coverage of the Bipartisan Commission on
terrorism chaired by Bob Kerrey, the war criminal ex-Senator who
currently runs the New School University with an iron fist, I was bowled
over by the garish, rhinestone-studded American flag on Madeleine
Albright's jacket. This was not a postage-stamp sized pin, but something
about the size of a bar of soap.
Meanwhile, John Kerry cannot be spotted without the obligatory flag on
his lapel. After September 11, liberal newsman Dan Rather began wearing
an American flag pin in his lapel. So does sportscaster Werner Wolf.
The flag is ubiquitous in NYC storefront windows in my neighborhood. The
Chinese restaurant, the CVS pharmacy, the Russian barber shop, where I
get my buzzcuts, all have them.
People in my building wear them, either on their lapel or as a pin on a
pocketbook. There is an American flag on the doorman's desk as there is
at nearly all the security guard stations at Columbia University.
All of these flags are sported for one and one reason only--to tell the
onlooker that they support the war against terrorism and that they
support the president.
The use of the flag to intimidate dissent began with Richard Nixon who
wore the pin himself, as did all of his top aides. Ever since then,
there have been repeated attempts to use the flag as an ideological weapon.
On September 25, 1988 The Boston Globe reported on how the first George
Bush waved the flag against his opponent from Massachussetts Governor
Michael Dukakis, a contest whose themes will likely be played out this
year between his son and John Kerry:
>>There are numerous parallels between the Bush and Nixon presidential
campaigns, as well as Nixon and Agnew's "law and order" assault on
Democratic congressional candidates in 1970.
Joe McGinniss, the author of "The Selling of the President," an account
of Nixon's media campaign in 1968, recalled that "the flag was a
consistent motif" in Nixon commercials that year. Bush's carefully
staged events, which protect him from reporters' questions, are also
similar to Republican activities in 1968, when Nixon's handlers shielded
him from the press, McGinniss said.
Republican candidates proudly wore American flag lapel pins like war
decorations that year.
After Agnew was criticized for his approach, he worked a new line into
his speeches. He said he did not question anyone's "patriotism," only
the "judgment of the radical liberals."
Bush uses the same language this year. When he assails Dukakis on the
Pledge of Allegiance, Bush adds, "I don't question his patriotism, I
question his judgment."<<
So Kerry's campaign, in seeking to avoid Dukakis's mistake, is playing
up both the flag and his patriotism, as demonstrated by his military
record. Whatever value this has in electing Kerry is secondary to the
effect it has in reinforcing the "patriotic" mood that has gripped the
After September 11th, the insufferable Todd Gitlin put a positive spin
on the proliferation of American flags:
>>The attack stirs, in other words, patriotism – love of one’s people
and desire to keep them from being hurt anymore. And then, too, the
wound is inverted, transformed into a badge of honor. It is translated
into protestation (“we didn’t deserve this”), and pride (“they can’t do
this to us”). Pride can go toward the quest for justice, the rage for
punishment, the pleasures of smugness. The dangers are obvious. But it
should not be hard to understand that the American flag sprouted first,
for many of us, as a badge of belonging, not a call to shed innocent
I would challenge this interpretation on two grounds. First, we do not
need a "badge of belonging". The iconography of the flag is not meant to
draw people together. It is to *exclude* people who are not members of
the homeland. The post-September 11th period has been marked by a
growing xenophobia directed against the French, the Germans and any
nation that refuses to toe the line on the US wars of expansion. Also,
it certainly is a call to shed innocent blood. 10,000 Iraqis have been
killed since the war began. Until the American people can begin to
understand their suffering in the same terms as the WTC tragedy, no
progress will be made toward peace and reconciliation. To begin that
process, it will be necessary to reduce the role of the flag to what it
once was, an official symbol that belongs on Post Offices and other
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