How could I know what country I’m in if there weren’t so many flags flying all over the place? The Urban Dictionary defines “Jingo” as “Someone who is extremely and overly patriotic. Differs from regular patriotism in that jingoism is usually more aggressive.”
Call me crazy, but I find it puzzling and borderline offensive to see flags flying all over the place. Flags are appropriate for military installations, vehicles, and uniforms. Same goes for police and firefighters. Even at schools they make some sense, and I have no problem with individuals flying them from their home for Independence Day, Veteran’s Day, and similar occasions.
But Arby’s? Taco Bell isn’t flying one, though I suppose you could make an argument for a Mexican flag being appropriate. The Hat has no flag pole and neither do most businesses in most any city or town. Flying a flag at a business is, I suppose, up to the owners of the business, and they certainly have every right to do so. I just can’t help wonder why it’s deemed so important to continuously announce one’s patriotism or theoretical love of country. If your flag is bigger than mine, does that mean you’re a better citizen than I; that you’re more enthusiastic about our freedoms and liberties, such as they are?
Also, we Americans seem to have forgotten our flag etiquette. In fact, I’d wager the majority of the most enthusiastic flag wavers know the least about how one respects the flag. For instance, you are not supposed to wear it as a piece of clothing. Three people come to mind immediately: Sarah Palin; Ted Nugent, and Tomi Lahren. If you fly one at night, it’s supposed to be illuminated, yet I’ve seen many a home with a flag displayed 24/7, and unlit at night.
I’m not claiming to be more — or even as — patriotic as the next person. What I am interested in pointing out is the hypocrisy of people who wear their patriotism on their sleeve (sometimes quite literally) and lay claim to being super patriotic, despite having neither the knowledge, nor the understanding, of proper respect and etiquette with respect to our nation’s flag. When I think of patriotism, I harken back to what Thomas Paine wrote 241 years ago this Saturday in “The Crisis“:
“THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.“
A phrase from Shakespeare’s Hamlet also comes to mind. I paraphrase:
“The Jingoist doth flag wave too much . . . methinks.”
This overblown patriotism they exhibit is hardly convincing. If they were so damned patriotic, so pure in their love of country which — one might be disposed to think — requires a love of its people as well, it should show in their actions and their relationships with their fellow citizens. On the contrary, most of the loudest chest-beaters harbor a great deal of declared animosity to those they deem as “others”. It’s difficult to see that as something American values ought to exalt.
I learned a long time ago the truly strong are humble, reserved, and quick to help, not hurt others. By the same token, the truly patriotic aren’t likely to brag about or hold their love of country as a weapon to be wielded in a culture war against fellow citizens. As an American, I love my country . . . and I love it more than I love any political party, any religion, or any philosophy of governance or economics. As a human being, I love humanity more than my country, but I was born here and I’ve lived here all my life, so it means a lot to me; nearly everything I’ve ever loved is within its borders. Nevertheless, I don’t need to feverishly wave a flag to prove I’m an American. It’s my heritage, and I’m thankful for it, not proud of something I had nothing to do with.