i know i mentioned at some point in my previous trade centre ramblings that i like the american flag. it's colourful, it's pretty, and it's a whole shitload fancier than mine is. yes, the stars and bars do indeed make for a grand old flag.

but folks, there IS such a thing as too much of a good thing. and we have LONG SINCE reached that point with the star-spangled banner.
if you live in the usa and you've no clue what i mean by this you are either a) living in a cave like yer man in afghanistan or b) a victim of this year's latest tragedy - red, white and blue-induced blindness. the "heartwarming patriotism" we saw displayed by many directly following the terrorist attacks has quickly morphed into trendiness, jingoism (i know, i know...y'all who know me personally will be wanting to crack me across the face with a sack of hot nickles next time i say that word...but, errmm...i dare you to find one! a sack of hot nickles, that is..), and race/ethnicism. betsy ross' beautiful creation has been reduced to, at best, something of plastic pins and overpriced sweatshirts, and at worst, a ramrod and even a hate symbol that might yet become the 21st century's answer to the swastika.
as i suspect even those of ye who DON'T know me personally are reaching for the hot-nickle sacks about now, i think i'd better elaborate.

let me begin with the slightly less-offensive offenders, the trendies. it's coming up on christmas now as i write this, and just a few weeks ago, we had in new york the annual macys thanksgiving day parade. it was the first event since 9-11 that prompted noticeable amounts of tourists to venture into the city, and man, they were all over the place, all decked out in their red, white, and blue. ohh, how NICE, you say. showing their solidarity with their brothers and sisters in ny. PHOOEY, sez i. most of these people were teen-agers visiting with marching bands from alabama and cheerleading squads from iowa. they couldn't be arsed thinking about ground zero. they were just wearing their flags cos seventeen magazine told them old glory is the must-have accessory for the new season.
okay. i realise how presumptuous and possibly even AGEIST that sounded, but unfortunately i know all too well it ISN'T just the kids donning their patriotic colours for the sake of fashion and i DON'T have to PRESUME anything. and ya know WHY? cos they're so frickin' DUMB they ADMIT it shamelessly. take for example one gaggle of gals i chatted with the saturday before thanksgiving down the city. floridians, this lot of teens and their moms were, here to dance in the parade. all blondes who'd no doubt score 9.9 on hot or not, this was oddly enough NOT the reason i flagged (no pun intended) them down. rather, they only struck me for the enormous, glitter-encrusted american flags emblazoned on their sweat shirts, the red, white, and blue ribbon ringlets in their hair, and the similarly-coloured glitter all over their faces. all of them, 16-year-old girls and 50-year-old mothers alike, were decked out identically. it was enough to make me question what exactly it was i'd creamed my coffee with that morning. they seemed pleased enough to tell me about their little bumfuck town, but i wasn't particularly interested seeing as i myself come from a little bumfuck town, and mine's probably far better than theirs. what i wanted to talk about was their getups. i fleetingly considered asking the group's leader, a dame close to my mother's age, what the hell she's been smoking when she got the hot idea to rub that glitter all over her puss, but instead i just went for the flags. this, too, they were more than happy to discuss. "it's a beautiful flag", i told them, "but what's even MORE interesting is what it stands for." blank stares all around. "america?" "yes, that...but i was thinking more about the SYMBOLISM behind it...what they had in mind when it was designed." "huh?" "the stars and stripes. there's a reason why they're numbered and coloured as they are, y'know." a mother was the first to respond to me with a full sentence. "why?", she asked, dead seriously. "how many stars and stripes ARE there?"
jesus christ. this is like a 45-year-old american woman we're talking about here, one who probably has at least a secondary school education...and here she is, bloody mystified as to the number of stars and stripes on her own coutry's flag. so i told her and her cohorts the whole story...from the 50 stars for the 50 states and the 13 stripes for the 13 original colonies, to the red for bloodshed, white for peace, and blue for liberty. then, to cap it off, i hoisted myself on my own petard by telling them i'd only been in the country a little over two years. boy were they impressed. i was just about to leave them have a good stiff drink to get over the shock when one of the kids made a comment that would take a hell of a lot more than one drink to forget. in fact, i don't think i'll forget it if i live to be 250 years old. "that's so cool. i didn't know the flag meant anything! i only got this shirt cos it was on sale at wet seal and all my friends have 'em!"
see? you don't have to presume anymore. and even if you do, you'll most likely be RIGHT anyway.

now...to discuss the other, uglier sprog of patriotism, hate. keep in mind, i'm not by any means saying patriotism automatically constitutes narrow-mindedness and xenophobia, but some folks still think they're all one in the same. i see it this way : there is pride in your country. there is support for fallen countrymen and respect for your flag. these things are just a few components of true patriotism, which when practised correctly is NOT tacky, cheesy, or offensive to ANYONE. it's powerful in an understated way and it demands not to be fucked with clearly yet quietly. there IS a way to convey the message "my country can kick your country's ass" without actually USING those exact terms. but most americans cannot fathom that. this is a land of the big, the loud, the crass, and the flamboyant...in EVERYTHING...so why should national pride escape where cars, talk shows, and fast-food takeaway meals couldn't? why wear a simple patriotic ribbon on your lapel and go about your business as usual when you can toss a bedsheet-sized flag over your red, white, and blue suv, slap a coupla prismic flag stickers on the bumper, and drive up and down a main thorofare with the battle hymn of the republic blaring from your 5 speakers chucking molotov cocktails out the windows at every passerby with skin darker than that of your average swede? joe yank can't think of any reason at all, cos while he DOES realise you have to make noise to be heard, what he DOESN'T realise is that once the noise passes a certain level, people start whipping out the earplugs and the message is lost completely. the only thing, in fact, that can bastardise an anti-terrorism message WORSE than roaring it through a fuckin' bullhorn is COUNTERTERRORISM. heh. don't sit there lookin' all confused, you know gadfeckin' well what i mean. you don't even have to BE in the states to know about this bit. america's a very racially-charged place. even under NORMAL circumstances, people here are so racially aware it's scary. but now that we've got bin laden's face plastered all over every newspaper we pick up, everybody who looks even remotely like him...all of 'em, from actual arabs to indians to sicilian italians...is under attack. they're being jumped, mugged, run down by cars, and pushed in front of subway trains. their homes and shops are being burnt down, robbed, and vandalised. you can't walk two blocks in any new york neighbourhood without seeing some form of anti-arab (or anti-IMMIGRANT, period) graffiti, usually on someone's property. and not a day has passed since 9-11 when i haven't witnessed the devestating irony of some thugged-out white kid with an american flag wrapped round his noggin as a do-rag bitching about the "towelheads". heh...yeah...towelheads. walking around with them stupid things on their heads devaluing america. wait a sec, kid...you talkin' about THEM or YOU?

sheeeit. this whole situation would actually be FUNNY if it weren't for the fact that between the attacks of the 11th, the war, and the hate crimes the death toll is slowly but surely rising up through the thousands. i can't bitch too much about the first two, as being puny civilian peons, there really isn't anything we can do about the war in afghanstan, and being (i will begrudgingly admit of myself as well) less than gods, there's certainly not a damn thing we can do to bring back the wtc victims. but the hate crimes? those can stop. at any time. and honestly, if americans wish to keep bitching about war and bitching about terrorism, THEY BETTER STOP. you have a right to complain about terrorism all right...SO LONG AS YOU'RE NOT A FUCKING TERRORIST YOURSELF. and really, when you think of it, what the hell else can you call someone who'd set a guy's shop ablaze for no other reason than he HAPPENS to be a muslim?

you mightn't be able to stop the war in afghanistan, but you can definitely prevent it from spilling over into america.