Flags Scare Me

The first flags were battle standards used during conflict. In times like those, especially when battles were bloody and fought face to face and you were usually slaughtering your neighbors who looked just like you, it was rather important to indicate whose side you were on.

Think about that for a minute. We have to be able to tell each other apart in order to kill the right people. Because if we were all running around naked and flagless, we would all essentially be the same. In which case, what the hell are we fighting for?

Good freakin’ question. What are we fighting for? I think the last war that was waged even tangentially for moral purposes (rather than purely for greed or racism or religious zealotry or the quest for the control of oil) was World War II. So, yeah, we need those flags, man, or we can’t separate ourselves. Us vs. Them.

Flags are the ultimate symbol of polarization. Either you’re on our team or you’re not. And if you aren’t willing to play by the flag flyers’ rules, then get the hell out. Love it or leave it.

It’s very comforting to be a member of a group. You’re accepted. You’re part of the norm. You’re just like us.

But in order to form a group, you have to be willing to believe that all of your members feel the same way about things. And, hey, you’re a good person, right? So if everyone in your group is just like you, then you must be the good guys.

What does that say about those who are excluded from that group? They must be bad. That only makes sense.

And we (“we”) wonder why we can’t all just get along.

On the anniversary of 9/11, I saw a Facebook post that waxed nostalgic for 9/12. It talked about stores running out of flags to sell because they were being flown everywhere. It talked about us all being Americans before anything else. It talked about us being united.

I remember it quite differently. I remember fear and paranoia and confusion and anger. Yes, I remember flags everywhere. Flags defiantly flown. I remember people getting beat up if they looked the slightest bit Muslim. I remember my employer trying to force me to wear a flag pin, and feeling as though my livelihood would be threatened if I didn’t jump on the bandwagon. I remember not knowing what this angry, enormous mass of “we” was going to do.

That scared the hell out of me. It still does.

I don’t even like rooting for sports teams. I don’t like turning anyone into a them. The only “thems” in my life at the moment are Trump supporters. I don’t understand them. The level of hate they demonstrate terrifies me, because I know that to them, I’m the them.

http _orig06.deviantart.net_404b_f_2008_153_1_5_flags_of_the_world_by_condottiero
So many thems.

I wrote an actual book, and you can own it! How cool is that? http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

6 thoughts on “Flags Scare Me

  1. lyn sutton

    This is why I don’t intentionally join groups. There is one group everyone is an automatic member of… earthlings. Maybe everyone could wave a flag with the earth in space on it, or would that give aliens that visit the wrong impression? 🙂

  2. As someone who is neither a Trump supporter nor a progressive, I have to say that I find the level of hate being slung *towards* Trump supporters equals or exceeds that expressed by Trump supporters themselves. You say you don’t understand them; let’s start there.

    The Trump supporters I know are scared. They are afraid of losing their jobs. They read in the news about some pretty horrible things going on in places like Syria, Sudan, and elsewhere, and are afraid that refugees from those places will import those barbaric practices — not just terrorism, but female genital mutilation, treating women as second class citizens, chucking gay men off rooftops, and so forth.

    The truth is, these are perfectly valid fears. Being afraid of these things does not make you a horrible person. Trump’s so-called “solutions” are worse than the disease, but I don’t hear anyone trying to explain that; instead, the left just continues to dish hate towards anyone who disagrees with them.

    When I was growing up, it was the right wing that acted like the morality police. I remember the likes of Jerry Falwell trying to tell people what correct behavior was. Now it is the left, imposing litmus tests on our behavior, and even worse, on what to think. When I went to university, most of my professors were left-learning to one degree or another, yet they made it a point of pride to expose us to people and ideas whose views differed from their own. My political science professor, for instance, who was one of the original members of the Green Party, invited someone from the KKK into the class to share the Klan’s views; he was confident enough that we could figure out for ourselves what bullshit they were.

    Until you come to accept that minds on the left have closed just as tightly shut as the minds on the right, Trump supporters are going to continue to baffle you. My advice is to go make some new friends from the enemy camp. Get to know their lives and their families. Perhaps after you have an informed and empathetic understanding of why they feel the way they do, one that doesn’t require hurling of epithets, you will be able to reach out to them and lead them away from the incredibly dangerous and harmful path they have chosen.

    1. You make quite a few assumptions, Finserv. That I’m so isolated I don’t know any Trump supporters. That my mind is closed. That as part of the left I am telling you how to behave or think. You also assume refugees are the ones with the barbaric practices, instead of the people they are fleeing FROM. Maybe you need more liberal friends and refugee friends. Oh, and…

      1. I don’t think anything I wrote classifies as an assumption.

        First off, I never wrote that refugees are bringing those practices here. I am a huge advocate of open borders, and think we should be bringing in more refugees, not less. I said that it wasn’t unthinkable for people to fear such things being imported; we as an example, we have a significant problem with honor killings and forced marriages in the UK, and that problem exists primarily in the community of Pakistani immigrants. To me, closing the borders is a stupid way of dealing with this, but the fear is reasonable.

        I was considered when I referred to the left and when I referred to you specifically. At no point did I say you were telling me there is only one right way to think, but the left in general and academia in particular certainly is. This is not an assumption; I can cite concrete empirical evidence of it. And if I, who loathe Trump completely, feel this way,, I can’t begin to imagine how must Trump supporters feel. No wonder they are digging in their heels. Democrats have a choice in the coming election: they can try to win hearts and minds by genuinely empathizing with Trump supporters and understanding their feelings, or they can feel good about being morally superior and give up any hope of winning over the voters they need.

        Another, more tactical observation. Every time in my lifetime that a Democrat has won the presidency, they have done so on a message of hope and inclusion. Carter, Bill Clinton, and Obama all did this. When the Democrats try to beat the Republicans at their own game of fear and hate, they always lose because the Republicans are better at it. Right now, everything I see coming from the Democratic camp is fear and hate.

        Finally, most of my friends are liberal, and I am honored to number you amongst them. The things I care about most: ending poverty, human rights, and freedom of expression, align far more closely with liberal ideals than with conservative ideals (or at least what the term conservative refers to these days). My problem is not with liberal priorities, but the fact that the liberal policy agenda, in more places than not, are emotionally palliative, short-sighted salves that might feel right in the heart but end up hurting the people they were designed to help most.

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