From the Department of Mixed Emotions Department:
On Monday our president signed into a law a bill that prohibits homeowners associations from restricting the display of the American flag. Said the President: "As our brave men and women continue to fight to protect our country overseas, Congress has passed an important measure to protect our citizens right to express their patriotism here at home without burdensome restrictions."
OK, I hate that kind of rhetoric, but let's set that aside with the rest of my personal ticks.
Thing is, I'm ALL about the President, the Congress, the guys down the street at Moe's Crosstown Tavern -- Hell, ANYBODY -- sticking it to the homeowners associations. First house I ever bought was in suburbia, and it took me about two months to figure out that not only did the bank actually own my property, the homeowners association controlled it. Once they pissed me off bad enough, I decided to fight the power. Who are you to tell me what I can park in my damned driveway, you cheese-eating yuppie twit?
Needless to say, I don't live in suburbia anymore.
But here's the deal: When it comes to the flag, the way you express your patriotism comes with restrictions. Whether they are burdensome or not depends on your perspective, but your perspective should include the traditions of respect for Old Glory. There are proper and improper ways to display it, raise it, lower it, light it, fold it and treat it in bad weather. As far as I'm concerned, if you display the flag, you're responsible for understanding the flag code.
My 80-something great-grandmother actually died respecting the flag. When I was a kid she went out in a rainstorm to take down her (properly displayed) flag, slipped on her wet stoop, broke her hip, never recovered and died soon after. Previous generations took this stuff seriously, expressing a disciplined and thoughtful relationship to the symbol of our republic.
Contrast that to the way many Americans have treated the flag since 9/11. They wear it. They festoon themselves and their property in flags. They leave them out all night, fly them till they are frayed and threadbare. The discipline is gone -- replaced by something that looks an awful lot like the way many fans support their favorite professional football teams. USA! USA!
So good on you, Mr. President, for telling homeowners associations to butt out. But can't we show some self-discipline and quiet pride in the way we treat this symbol? Do we require the threat of punishment before we'll act in an honorable fashion?