I like my flag with a little dirt on it, not because it belongs on the ground, but because the dirt tells the struggle behind the pride. It’s how Francis Scott Key saw it in 1814 when he wrote The Star Spangled Banner in the twilight of the perilous fight. Men fell, but the flag didn’t. It honored those that fell, and gave hope and spirit to those still fighting.
I am latently patriotic. I believe in the United States of America and hold pride in it’s accomplishments. I have never served the country in the military or voted in an election. I am fairly self-absorbed in that respect, but here are a few of my moments.
The Winter Olympics of 1980 were the first I remember watching, albeit on tape delay. The games were framed by the Cold War, and I will never forget watching the hockey semi-final against the Soviet Union, on tape delay, in the basement of my parent’s house. The Soviet’s in my nine year old mind efficienct, heartless robots, and the US team pure heart. The truth was between they were all humans, but when the clock ran out and Al Michael’s asked “do you believe in miracles?” I believed in red, white and blue.
On September 11, 2001, my office closed. I reached the car just as Howard Stern described one of the twin towers falling. At that moment, I had only seen a still photo of a hole in the side of one of the towers. It didn’t seem enough to take it down. I raced home not knowing what to feel. I was filled with anxiety, rage, anger, fear. At the house, I turned on the TV and saw the indelible images of that day for the first time. Among them was footage of muslim people dancing in the streets with Our Flag alight in flames and covered in dirt. This did not allay my emotional turmoil, but began to galvanize it in the belief that I am part of something bigger than myself, my family, my friends. I am an American under the Flag.
In a few weeks, like most people, I will watch the Olympics. I know at some point in the sixteen days, I will watch an event that at any other time would not have concerned or interested me in the slightest, and my voice will go away, my lips will tighten and my eyes water as I watch someone I don’t know do something I don’t care about simply because we are Americans.