Posted by: wordofexcellence | March 14, 2012

Just what does an American flag signify?

I leave home at about 9 am, driving down the street to the local convenience store. At the end of the street, I come upon a blue minivan with hazard lights flashing, flying an American flag and a New York Yankees banner. The driver is going at approximately the speed limit, as a patriot ought

We both make a right turn, and down the road, we come upon a large flatbed truck attempting to back into a local business. I notice my patriotic friend (well, no he isn’t really a friend) flail his arms at the need to stop and wait for the truck.

It’s taking a minute or two for the truck to navigate the road, and i notice via his side view mirror that my patriotic friend has quite a disgusted demeanor. The truck, still flailing about, moves forward and back again, unsuccessfully. My windows are closed, so I can only imagine Mr. America’s monologue.

His hands go up in disbelief and annoyance at the audacity of this (also) a US citizen delaying him from his obviously important rounds.

At last (AT LAST!) we are freed from the untimely stoppage of our progress. Mr. America turns left in front of me, and I follow. We make a smooth transition at the traffic light ahead, and it turns out that our agendas are similar.

We both turn into the convenience store parking lot. I pull into a spot without interruption. Mr. America, however, is blocked from his desired parking space. Someone is trying to exit and has pulled out in front of him. His hands again go up in disbelief.

As I stroll to the store to purchase today’s newspaper, I hear him utter the infamous “F” word. This, of course, is a traditional American usage. Shaking my head, I estimate that he’s decided it’s truly unAmerican to derail such a fervent patriot’s errands.

My visit to the store concluded, I leave just as he enters the store.

As I put pen to paper to chronicle this chance meeting (though we did not, in fact, meet), I wonder what’s delaying Mr. America from exiting the store.

Aha! Out he comes, bearing a plastic bag and armed with rubber gloves. He spies a man finishing off a Red Bull energy drink and begs for the empty, which he deposits in his plastic bag.

Not quite ready to leave yet, he makes the rounds of each trash bin, seeking his 5 cent booty. Having sated his appetite for nickel deposits, he returns to his vehicle and departs, mouth now closed.

This study in mankind and how a patriot acts in his day-to-day activities wasn’t in my plans for the day. All I intended was a brief stop to pick up the paper, and then to hie over to my home again.

It gave me pause, though, to witness what had gone on. Here’s an older man – not unlike me actually, in that sense – flying his flag proudly; proclaiming his patriotism to all who have vision. Yet, his actions belie the obvious claim to that patriotic vision he may have once had.

So what is a patriot?

Is he the kind of guy who gets all worked up when someone else (an American citizen) gets in his way? When confronted with a minor delay, is he the kind of guy who cusses out the other driver who’s innocently backing out of a parking stall?

Is he the kind of guy who witnesses someone acting in what might be construed as an odd fashion, and who then takes pen in hand and describes his feelings about this episode?

I’m patriotic. I love living in this country. I love the freedoms we enjoy, I love the people (mostly) who I encounter on my journey through life. Hey, I even served in the military (I admit I hated it). And despite my disgust with what I thought was a major snafu in my life, I survived it (and met some nice people along the way).

I don’t fly a flag. I sing the national anthem when it’s played at ballgames (of all sorts). I take my hat off when it’s played, too. I truly do believe that we who reside here have it better than pretty much everyone else on the planet.

I also get frustrated sometimes when I’m on the road and delays bog me down. Seeing what Mr. America, noted above, did with his frustration has given me a bit of a different outlook on things, though.

Cussing out somebody who’s simply leaving a parking space is not what I consider patriotic. Hey – maybe parking is part of our free speech! Getting worked up about someone backing up a truck that occupies a few minutes of your day is not the way you express your love for the United States.

I was enthralled at Mr. America’s behavior. Is it anti-American to act that way? Of course not. After all, we see it every day. Is it the sign of a true patriot to get all worked up, as this man did? Again…of course not!

We’re told that patience is a virtue. Well we know that isn’t just an adage…it’s true. We have been taught to be patient, but do we ever listen? But that’s off the topic – patriots occupy a different space than the rest of the population (they think). Some of them would suggest that my not flying a flag is not the sign of a patriot. Well of course I’ll disagree. My argument? When Mr. America and I were sitting and waiting for that truck to move, he was angry; I was placid.

And speaking of “placid” isn’t Lake Placid where the Miracle on Ice took place?

cussing people out might be as American as apple pie, but that doesn’t make it anything less than unseemly. If you’re going to fly that flag – the stars and stripes – then you need to set an example to the rest of the population.

and that example ought not to be to show your irritation at the mundane events of the day.

God Bless America – we need it now more than ever.



  1. There seems to be a united message out in the blogosphere these days, and that is people need to slow down! There is much anxiety out there. Road rage is real. When people are stressed, being behind the wheel of a car is not the best place to be. You are given such power behind that wheel.

  2. Isn’t it odd how such a banal task as picking up a newspaper can stimulate such deep thought? However, since most people are constantly in a rush, they aren’t able to stop and think how their actions are effecting others. Granted, most do not care what other people think or how they feel. If people would slow down a bit and show a little more compassion, the country would profit.

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