The United States of America, land of the free, and home of the brave; yet recently it seems like the home of the cynical and angry. Party lines have been drawn like some awkwardly written quest from a dystopian role playing game where the post-apocalyptic United States is split between warring clans of the “Alt-Right” the anarcho-communists of ANTIFA, Oath Keepers, Brown Berets of the Red-Neck revolt.
The list goes on and on.
Sounds scary, doesn’t it? As though we are on the brink of some sort of factional civil war. At least, that’s what some in the media are pummeling into your frontal cortex as they verbally ejaculate their almost incoherent opinion of the situation, whilst they loop the same clip over and over again like some home-made smut film begging the audience to share in their post orgasmic glee.
One thing that seems to get the blood boiling in most patriotic Americans, is seeing someone we particularly don’t like nor understand burning Old Glory, the American flag. I get it. It’s enraging to see someone on a Tuesday burning the symbol of freedom on our news channel of choice. Why are they not at work? Where is their mother? The very depiction of the Stars and Stripes alit by someone we don’t like because they don’t look, act, talk, or think like you is enough to make you want to take to the streets and punch babies being pushed in strollers for being so lazy.
However, you don’t take to the streets to punch infants since that is rude and, I still believe, illegal. What you do though, is take to the vast cesspools of social media ‘echo chambers’ hashtagging “Burn my Flag, I stomp your ass!” and other overt patriotic statements of outrage such as “Leftie cucks ain’t woke! They are lucky I wasn’t there!” Then the media and special interest groups sitting with their public relations teams that have been scouring the internet for the very same vitriolic hashtags and sentiment slyly begin their ‘influence operation’ to further divide this great nation, and telling you there is a war that only they will tell you about, demanding you arm yourselves and “be the resistance.”
That’s what both sides of the coin want you to believe: theres a war going on and we are just days, maybe even minutes from this “civil war” hitting its flashpoint. Yet having been urine bottle close to the ANTIFA movement and lilly pad adjacent to the “It’s just a meme!” crowd, I can tell you with a full patriotic, ‘America the beautiful’ heart that this truly isn’t the case and the threat is all but inflated to fearmongering proportions.
Some of you by now may be frothing at the mouth in disagreements saying to yourself “what about Charlottesville?!”, or “Have you seen what they are doing in Berkeley!!?” Yes, I am seeing these incidences and I never said the boilerplate of American micro-aggressions isn’t simmering a pot of violence near that boiling point.
Here, take my hand; walk with me, this may confuse you a little bit.
You see, Americans have been protesting and burning the flag for quite some time. The 1960’s come to mind when many citizens were protesting the Vietnam War and Nixon. Yet that is before most of our time and well before 24 hour news coverage and social media. The American flag is a symbol which denotes freedom and the pursuit of happiness; yet what happens when some citizens of this nation don’t feel that way? Well, I’ll tell you, they burn that symbol because they know that good Americans like ourselves becoming enraged, shocked, and downright sad that these individuals would do such a thing to such a beautiful symbol.
I’m from a wonderful city surrounded by natural beauty and awe of the Pacific Northwest known as Portland, Oregon. Some of you may have heard it called the ‘People’s Republic of Portland’ and consider it a liberal den of ill repute. To which I will say that you are wrong for the most part.
Weird, yet progressive and highly Democrat of course, Portland has begun changing since I was a child of Cascadia and this is where I first began covering anarchists and exposed to the then fledgling anti-fascist, anti-kleptocracy movement.
And as a veteran, this is where I first saw the American flag burned.
It was at the city’s annual ‘MayDay’ rally in the downtown center known as Pioneer Courthouse Square, I was beginning to write and get involved with attempting to understand my city and civilian America. I was so confused by so many micro-aggressions by people that had no idea how good they had it in the States, that I went into this objectively to understand, to commune and develop rapport. They spoke of oppression and I wanted to see if I could help free them of such a tyrannical ideal.
Like my Green Beret training had taught me.
However, I wasn’t too well received. I am 6′ 3″ 200lbs and didn’t blend too well with my short cut hair and wide stance. I was followed by several skinny children in Guy Fawkes masks shouting and pointing at me saying “He’s a fucking cop!” and blocked most of my attempts at photographing the event even after I told them I was a freelance journalist.
I didn’t get any better treatment from the phalanx of Portland Police as I was body checked into a wall by a police officer while taking snaps of them pushing the more rowdy of the bunch away from an artisanal gluten-free cupcake boutique. So as you can imagine I was getting a tad angry at all sides, when I saw the black clad group first stomping on an American flag, then dousing it with lighter fluid.
“Is that shitheel about to light that on fire?” I thought angrily as I made my way over to surreal scene lifting my camera up to catch the act. Then the black clad young man–a boy really, produced a lighter from his black pants and, shaking the whole time, sparked Old Glory sending it up in a ball of flame. The crowd was cheering at such an overt subversive act, dancing around their act of defiance like some sort of Lord of the Flies reenactment.
My whole body was on fire, burning to move into the crowd and save the banner of which I fought under. My mind screamed at my body to take action and I began to see a red tunnel form on the outer perimeter of my vision.
Rage welled inside me.
Then just as fast as the anger sharks began swimming, I remembered my training I received from one of the best special operations schools, I remembered my Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape, or SERE training.
You see in SERE they teach you exactly what kind of person you are and what you can take as far as being a prisoner of war, and yes, without going to much into detail, they torture you. They teach you about what it means to be an American and a Special Forces soldier, they also teach you that the American flag, the physical manifestation of that is just a piece of cloth.
The symbol of American freedom is inside you, and no matter what they do, be it make you stand on the Stars and Stripes during an interrogation or cutting it to pieces in front of you, America is in your heart and soul.
I remembered this as I watched this physical symbol of America, a series fabric more than likely sewn together by and imported from China burn to its aluminum eyelets. I realized that this is these young folks’ right to do this, and for all intents and purposes was the most subversive act they could conjure. I took my snaps of the event and walked away to contemplate the day in America I just experienced.
You see, the gorgeousness that is the American flag in its physical form is just a tangible symbol that one can touch, salute, and fly over there domain, yet that physical symbol shouldn’t define you as an American–what lives inside you should.
We are quick to anger nowadays in this nation. Many people both left and right of the political popularity contest have chosen sides for or against their prom king and queen. We forget that everyone in the United States has the right to protest, to freedom of speech, to offend. I will not tell you what to be, do, or how to act, that is up to the individual.
But I leave you with this: I understand that its upsetting and you are upset and angry; but how far Right will you go until you bump into the ass of the far Left? I will continue to expose both the far-Left and the far-Right’s actions, if that makes me a hypocrite, so be it, it’s my right to do so. And that my friends, is the American way.
Feature image courtesy of: Derek Gannon