Today I Flew the Flag, Not Upside Down


Julia asked if I was putting the flag out today. I realized I should. I flew it for one reason only: It’s Memorial Day and I wanted to honor those who died while serving in the U.S. military. They deserve this honor.

Otherwise, I haven’t been flying the flag. The last time I did, in 2016, I flew the flag upside down as a call of distress. I got some pushback over that.

I’ve been thinking a lot about our flag and our country recently, especially in the time of COVID-19. I’ve been upset and disturbed at what I see and hear and read. I’ve been living in a socially-isolated bunker with my family, while our nation is at war with itself.

I’m on the side that believes the president is a cancer to this country–and to the world at large–and his sycophants and voters are terribly wrong on what and who our country should represent.

Our challenge is that we are such a diverse nation, in almost every imaginable way. People have different beliefs, different goals, different views of the world. We’re of different races. We have vastly different socioeconomic profiles. We listen to different voices in the media and in our own heads. We live in different climates and geographies. There is a powerful and elite ruling class, and there is a lot of everyone else.

This is the country we live in. We have our flag, which is the symbol of our nation. But it no longer seems that a single symbol can represent the magnitude and diversity of our country–unless it accounts for that magnitude and diversity.

Today I looked up the definition of a patriot: a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion.

A lot comes down to what our country’s “interests” are. I want to be a patriot. I want to have that passion. I want to love, support, and defend my country a lot more than I do. What I really want is our country to move in a direction of empathy, and inclusiveness, and fairness. To me, those are the foundational interests that should underpin our country. That’s what our flag should represent.

I’m no leader of a cause or of people. But I can vote. I can do things for others. I can demonstrate empathy.

Except I’m having such a hard time being empathetic toward corrupt government leaders, and white supremacists, and greedy billionaires, and climate change deniers, and second amendment freaks, and people who want to take away women’s rights, and those who try to suppress voting or deny healthcare. Such a lack of empathy I’m demonstrating. I guess that means I’m not the good American I want to be.

But I did fly the flag today. It’s Memorial Day. Hundreds of thousands of people have died in the service of our country, whatever that country is. I honor you who have fallen. I don’t know if I could have done the same.

The sun has set. I must take down the flag. I hope I have reason to fly it again soon, and not upside down.

By David Klein

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, journalist, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.


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