Friday, August 11, 2017
My brother and mother live in a Norman Rockwell neighborhood.
Neat bungalows set on tidy lawns. Modest with no pretensions. Tree-lined streets. And flags. Lots of American flags.
I walk that circuit every day. Sometimes, more than once.
Walking is a great time to think. And not always constructively.
I started thinking about the families who live behind those flag-decorated porches. Why do some fly flags while others do not.
When I was a boy in the 1950s, lots of homes flew flags. If the families could afford them. The residents of Powers did not have a lot of excess income for frivolous flag purchases.
Back then, flying a flag meant one thing -- you were an American. Some homes continued the habit they had acquired during the Second World War. No matter our differences, we were united in the aspirations of the nation.
The late 1960s changed that. The hard left decided the flag did not reflect their values. So, it became a symbol to burn, not to admire. And a rift was created through my generation of Boomers -- some retained traditional values; others railed against them. The flag was no longer a symbol of unity.
That changed on 11 September 2001. Under attack, we united. Americans openly supported their troops -- and the flag once again was a symbol of one nation.
I am not certain if that is still true. That is why I wondered about the families behind those flags in my mother's neighborhood.
Last year I had a conversation with a friend who dresses to the left with his politics. I had commented on the number of flags in his neighborhood. He responded that most of the flag displayers were probably racist -- though he did not know any of them. I was shocked because I had never equated love of country with a political ideology. Good grief, even that paragon of liberalism, Garrison Keillor, regularly lectured liberals to show their love of country by flying flags.
But I found myself doing the same thing when I assumed the flags were flown by Trump voters. They may have been. But, a quick look at the precincts results for the 2016 election does not support that theory. It doesn't discount it, either.
The precinct is split almost equally between Democrats and Republicans -- with a slight Democrat edge. This being Oregon, the non-affiliated voters are nearly as strong as each of the parties.
And the precinct's presidential vote mirrored that split. They supported Hillary by a handful votes -- and bushels of votes for other contenders. Like most of America, the voters obviously were not enthralled by either one of the major party candidates.
I may have completely missed the point of those flags. Because of my background, I pay far too much attention to politics. Most people do not. They are wise enough to know that they and their families are seldom touched by politics in their daily lives.
It was not until we left the Powers reunion picnic that I realized during the Sunday picnic and the Saturday night dinner, I did not hear one mention of Trump's name. Neither positive or negative. He was simply not present at the festivities.
And that made me happy. Almost every social media channel is crammed with compulsive ramblings about the president. It was nice to have a three-day break from the hyperventilation. It gave me hope that the country had not obsessed itself into a Mad Hatter existence.
And those flags in the neighborhood? I suspect they are there because the owners are simply proud to be Americans. No matter who they voted for in 2016.
With that, I concur.