The Banal Patriot
I saw this chair stacked up like cordwood in the entranceway of my local Pamida and was once again moved to disgust with the depths to which so-called patriotism has sunk. The American Flag, which we are supposed to respect, is also apparently a perfectly acceptable thing to sit upon. The flag is debased by merchandise like this.
Now, I'm not some sort of flag waving zealot. I don't even own one. I believe that patriotism is more than what one wears or, apparently, sits upon. I believe patriotism is marked by engaged and informed citizenship, participating in the systems of governance and, yes, opposing the government when there is good cause. Protest and revolution are not only patriotic, they are our national birthright.
In the United States Code for Flag Use there are some pieces of flag etiquette that merchants seem to have conveniently forgotten:
The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery.
The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.
The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever.
No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform.
This is only in part, but the point is that the flag as a national emblem is something to be respected, not merchandised, exploited, and made banal. I remember (barely) the uproar over Abby Hoffman wearing an American Flag shirt to trial. Now he would be hailed as some sort of überpatriot. And that's part of the problem, I think. The banality of patriotism has robbed the power of protest. When patriotism is something that you buy and sell, something you wear, sit on, or get your burger in, it robs the power of the symbol. It no longer means anything other than brand identification. And when all it means is brand identification, all one has to do to be a patriot is to purchase the right things.