Open Letter to the Guy with the Battered Flag on his SUV

Yes, I’m talking to you. You know who you are; you’re the guy that thinks flag-burning should be constitutionally banned, yet you drive around with a tattered, battered mockery of the flag and the country it represents. Oh, I know you felt proud when you put that little flag on there. DAMN I’m a good American! Let’s all stand up and salute (me)! Just remember: when you bought that flag, you also took on responsibility.

Then you continued to fly that flag in the rain, and at night. Huh. Kinda disrespectful there, Sparky.

Now your flag is much the worse for wear. It is truncated, and the edge is tattered to threads. The dyes have all faded, especially the red, so that the stripes are barely discernible. Yet still you parade around with this thing attached to your car. How is this not worse than someone burning a flag as a conscious exercise of free speech?

There used to be a lot more of you. In the last patriotism boom millions of folks bought (incorrectly packaged and handled) little flags and put them on their cars. Look at me! I love America! What happened to all those little flags? I’ll tell you what happened: those patriots threw them in the trash once they got too tattered. Somehow sending a flag to rot in a landfill is not as bad a burning it.

Which brings me to the US Flag Code. You’ve already abused the hell out of the part that says “The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way.” (This is under the section titled “Respect for the Flag”.) It’s time to move on to disposing of your shameful insult to your country. What are you going to do? You’re not going to just throw it away, are you? You’re a patriot! The flag is a symbol of your country! That’s why you’re flying it in the first place. So what are you going to do?

How about “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”

Yep. You should burn that American Flag. Of course, this won’t be the camera-drawing antics of a hippie protester, but instead will be a solemn occasion while you consider the flag, what it stands for, and respect the service it has done. Gather the kids around to pass that deep respect on to the next generation. I recommend as a reference for the proper way to respectfully dispose of your little plastic badge of patriotism.

Gah! You’re going to throw it in the trash anyway, aren’t you. Yeah, you’re a real patriot.


9 thoughts on “Open Letter to the Guy with the Battered Flag on his SUV

  1. For a time after 9/11 I stopped to pick up many, many flags off the road that had fallen from cars. Most people didn’t care. But one time I was trying to get a flag that was out in four lanes of traffic. As soon as I had parked off the shoulder cars had stopped in all four lanes to let me go out and safely retrieve the flag from the road.

  2. I was disappointed that so much of our national reaction to 9/11 was to go out and fucking buy something. Buy a flag, put it on your car until it shreds. Buy a t-shirt that says something offensive about Muslims. Buy a goddamned gold coin so you don’t forget the World Trade Center.

    • But there was sooo little else to do. Bob Edwards on NPR gave voice to the national frustration when he said he was ready to collect aluminum, go without beef and nylons, anything. We wanted to be active and show solidarity and instead the administration told us to go to the mall or the terrorists win. About all one could do was put a sticker on your car.

  3. You know, I’m really not asking for people to hold solemn ceremonies, as much as to consider when they buy the flag that there are responsibilities involved. Just dispose of it with a bit of thought and reflection and I’ll be all right.

  4. One of the most moving moments I remember from summer camp: The flag that had flown in front of the dining hall every day for who knows how many years had become tattered. At campfire one night, the camp director came with the flag and draped it carefully over the fire. As it burned, we sang Taps. I was standing near a camp counselor whom I had a crush on that summer, a battle-hardened Vietnam vet. He had tears in his eyes, and so did I.

  5. Should we encourage people to burn plastic? Should we encourage them to bury it?

    The solution? Hemp flags:

    (The site is so badly organized it’s terribly tempting to make flag-smoking jokes. After clicking around, I found a link to purchase a 13-star “Betsy Ross” hemp flag, but the 50-star flag? Nope.)

    • John, I see what you mean. The idea is good, but the execution is inept.

      I have a large number of students who would support hemp flags. Two of them are also suffering side effects from chemotherapy and would support hemp for other uses.

    • Right on John. Another thing you’d like is that when the local leftie independent paper ran a contest on how best not to do the unreflective patriotism of flags-on-cars, one emeritus botanist suggested planting native plants and uprooting invasive alien species.
      As a side note, I object to the idea that patriotism had to be reflective in order to be permissable. Like you had to have a PhD before you were allowed have an emotional response to 9/11. But now I sound dangerously like Palin.
      Nevertheless, plant Native! It’s Patriotic!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *