What does the American flag symbol currently represent?

My friend Annie recently mentioned a grocery trip during which her daughter insisted upon wearing her American flag dress. “What does the American flag symbol currently represent?” she asked. “In my opinion, it’s ignorance and greed at best. What can we do each day to resurrect the pillars this county stands on? We’re so much better than this.”

Annie: I hear you! I don’t claim to have any answers, but I love this question, particularly as an American abroad at this moment in history. I also love that children, like your daughter, aren’t caught up in the outer OR inner turmoil.

To further the conversation, I’ve just dug up this article I wrote some years ago for the Bolinas Hearsay (then my local newspaper). If you don’t want to read the whole thing, at least scroll down to the Wendell Berry poem at the bottom!

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The Psychedelic Seniors: StuArt and friends

A bit of context for those of you unfamiliar: Bolinas is a town that takes it’s July 4th celebrations Verrrrrrry Seriously. It’s easily the biggest celebration of the year, drawing tourists from far and wide for the parade, a showcase for small-town agrarianism, creative genius, and a heavy dose of progressive politics. The day also features a tug-of-war between Bolinas and Stinson, the small town across the lagoon channel.

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Bolinas women about to win the tug-of-war against Stinson 2015

I almost used the tug-of-war metaphor to represent the place we find ourselves in today, as citizens of countries and as humans with hearts, but as Annie says, “we’re so much better than this!” What about something along the lines of… let’s forego sides and ALL take up the rope and use it as a tool to achieve some shared goal? I want to stay optimistic, as angry as I am. Tonight I’m joining a class on Buddhism, social change, and non-violent action. I am curious to see what tools present themselves, and hope to report back soon.

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Bolinas Hearsay, July 2011

On the afternoon of July 5th 2010, I was wandering up from the beach on Wharf Road. I followed the stars and stripes painted in red, white, and blue along the road, beaming at the memory of watching them magically appear a day earlier behind the tractor during the parade, our latest gift from the always-inspiring, always-surprising Gospel Flat Farmer-artist-provocateurs.

Just then, Mickey and Sam Murch themselves drove up in the farm truck. Still grinning, I told them that they – the farmers and their art – were the highlight of my Fourth of July!

But Sam’s look was somber. “Some people complained to [name omitted]. We’re here to clean up,” he told me, nodding toward the pressure washer and lengths of hose in the back of the truck. “Apparently people aren’t necessarily mad that we painted on the road – it’s that they don’t want to look at American flags.” Continue reading

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