The flag stays in the closet

Opinion: Dan Haley

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By Dan Haley

Editor and Publisher

When out walking our dogs lately — they alternate walks since together they are stinkers — I have noticed an intensifying number of American flags being displayed.

We're flag-flyers and my immediate feeling, seeing four or five consecutive homes with the Stars and Stripes in the wind, was appreciation. But as Hugo (mixed poodle mutt) or Rue (golden doodle) and I neared home, I wasn't inclined to go into the front hall closet, pull out the flag and display it in a sort of unifying declaration against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Do I feel unified with my neighbors? Absolutely. With my colleagues here at the Journal? Yes. I feel connected to Oak Park and River Forest with the straight information officials pump out and the ways residents are connecting. I feel kinship with the city of Chicago and a mayor who is tough as nails but surprises me with a sense of humor and delights me as a true White Sox fan. I even feel part of the state of Illinois — shout-out to Rantoul and Dwight and Cairo — portions of the state I have always felt bifurcated from. 

So if I had a Chicago flag (and it's a darned good flag) or a State of Illinois flag (have no recollection of it but it must exist), I'd happily display them from the porch.

I'm stuck though, and pretty sick that I'm stuck, on the American flag.

I've flown the flag when it felt that those on the right wanted to question my right to it. 

We broke it out after 9/11. We flew it at the start of the Iraq war. (Yes, I know.) It was up for months when the economy imploded in 2008. When conflict came, flying the flag was succor for our savaged hearts, a declaration of faith in our collective future.

Today the pain of the pandemic is more massive than any of those conflicts. More death and illness. More danger on the frontlines of health care.

 As data accumulates, the disheartening, unsurprising truth is that our health and our illness is separating us, as always, by class and by race. The percentage of African Americans dying of the virus is completely disproportionate to the population. It is access to health care, which isn't fair or equal. It is working people still stocking shelves or cooking takeout at great risk, while newspaper publishers can pound a keyboard from safe havens.

We face pervasive and justifiable fear. An economy screeched to a standstill. In reality, near full uncertainty on a timeline for recovery. It isn't going to be by Easter, obviously.

And all of this under the leadership of a president who is frighteningly incompetent, personally failed, who can't tell the truth to save our lives, and who will go to his ruin still trying to divide us.

Well I'm divided. Fully divided. Don't have it in me to declare unity with the utter chaos his government has brought to a widely predicted pandemic. Can't watch the news. Can't stop watching the news. Absolutely cannot watch his daily unreality show in the late afternoon. Can't believe the cable channels give up almost two hours a day for his lies and his blathering.

In this horror show, in my reaction to it as reflected in our glorious flag, I am not alone. 

And so to every person flying the Stars and Stripes, bless you. I'll credit you with being a better person than I am in this moment. But I just don't have it in me.

Email: Twitter: @OPEditor

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Reader Comments

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Tommy McCoy  

Posted: April 11th, 2020 11:37 PM

Flag waivers bring out the Flag, whenever they think it is time to show how patriotic are and unified with America. I do fly the Flag, and not to show anything other than to respect the history of my family, from myself going back to the Civil War. It is what you just did and in my case under Nixon, it turned out wrong. Once in a while when I notice how touched some one is with Patriotism I will ask which war did you serve in and the answer is none. Obama created March 29 to recognize Viet Nam Veterans and you get a pin. All I got out of Trump was he is not fond of POW's, was a fantastic athlete and if you do not believe me, ask him. He insulted Senator McCain's Patriotism who stayed with his men and the reason he walked the way he did was the V.C. had some primitive ways to torture a person that is much more uncomfortable then the way Trump, shivered when he talked about the swab test and the pain he endured and it must be a very uncomfortable minute or two because he mentioned it on two separate occasions. He posted on his twitter "On National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day, we honor the more than 500,000 American warriors captured while protecting our way of life. We pay tribute to these Patriots for their unwavering and unrelenting spirit!" I know Senator McCain did not need to hear that from Trump although it would have been nice to show respect

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: April 11th, 2020 10:10 PM

If I had a flag pole, I'd fly it upside down in protest. I've earned that right because, unlike the unworthy slime currently in the White House, I, one, served in the military in war time, two, raised and lowered and folded for the flag for two years in the Navy, three, have actually the paid taxes I owed, and four, with the odd minor exception, I never violated any laws.

John Lattyak from Oak Park  

Posted: April 11th, 2020 9:49 PM

Dan, I fly the flag year round out of love for our country, but more for the love of those who have sacrificed their lives for our country. I also believe that everyone has the right to fly or not fly the flag, or kneel in protest to the inequalities in our country. I have a friend, like you, who does not fly the flag because of the ineptitude of our countries current president and his administration, more out of dislike than protest. My feelings are that this gives ownership of the flag to the president, and those on the right. The flag belongs to all of US, "We the People of the United States".

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