Posts Tagged 'flag'

Upside Down


The Desmoines Register

Lately I have noticed a lot of stories in the news about people flying the US flag upside down to protest the war in Iraq. There is Terri Jones who was flying the flag the whole time her son, army reservist Jason Cooper was fighting in Iraq but after he came home, suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and committed suicide she turned her flag upside down. A few months later someone came over, when she was gone, and turned her flag right side up and about a week after that she received an anonymous note.

“I’ve noticed for quite some time now that you fly your American flag upside down . . .. Please don’t disrespect those who have fought and died on our soil preserving your very freedom and mine. . . . Let’s rally behind our troops and if they don’t believe in what they’re doing, let them voice it. Every single person in the armed forces today signed on the dotted line. . . . I know your flag is sending out a message that you might not have though it was sending. So I felt compelled to tell you what I thought.”
It was signed, “An extremely sincere fellow American citizen and proud of it.”
And in the P.S., the person added: “If it truly is that you hate living in this country and are ashamed of our freedom, then by all means, sir, why do you live here?”

Then there is Corydon Iowa farmer Dale Klyn who had been flying the flag right side up for 6 years before he turned it upside down, partly to show solidarity for Terri Jones, and was arrested for disorderly conduct. Not only was he arrested but it seems most of his small farming community has turned against him. The local Case equipment dealer told him, “I’ve lost all respect for you. I’ll buy you a one-way ticket anywhere you want to go out of the country,” Klyn recalls.

He faces death threats from a forum on a Marine vets’ website,, which calls itself the “Marine Corps Community for USMC Veterans. That forum contained the following remarks from four different Marines:

“Any scout snipers live in Corydon, Iowa???”
“Corn hole ’m.”
“Fly him under it upside down.”
“If the flag is flying upside down, it means he is in trouble, right? I think we Marines should show up and get him ‘out’ of trouble.”

What I continue to find disturbing is the proliferation of flag imagery, on advertising, chatchkees made in China, inexpensive lawn ornaments, etc, items and uses that are explicitly against the US flag code, and no one seems to care while flying the flag upside down brings death threats. We wouldn’t have a country if our forefathers did not question the ruling government. When did it become unpatriotic to stand up for what you believe in and voice your opinion and why are tacky China made chatchkees considered patriotic?


The Beginning

George Washington Bridge, Septemeber 13, 2001, Greta Pratt

My idea about this whole flag thing is that it started with 9/11. I was living in New Jersey close enough that I saw the towers and the smoke,right after the first plane hit, from the top of Skyline Drive on my way to work. In the small town where I live many residents work in New York City and most know someone who was personally affected. There is a hand painted memorial in the local high school dedicated to former students who were killed in the collapse, the point being, it was very close and personal and deeply felt in my town and throughout the tristate area. What I noticed was that pretty much instantly people in New York City and its suburbs put up flags. It was a heartfelt showing of solidarity, a symbol that Americans, engulfed in shock, used as a way to say we grieve for those who lost their lives, we grieve for our country.

Can Collection, Greenwich Village, September 13, 2001, Greta Pratt

That has always been my take on the Flag O’Rama. It started after 9/11 as a way to show solidarity and morphed into a “brand” used to sell, in its most harmless mode, products, but more dangerously it bombards and assails us with ideas of nationalism.
Engine 14, September 13, 2001, Greta Pratt

Now that I am in southern Virginia, where people, for the most part, have no personal connection with the 9/11 tragedies, I am hearing different thoughts about the flags. My colleague Kenneth Fitzgerald’s take is that there are not nearly as many flags as there where after 9/11 when “every car had one of those little stick-on flag poles.” Maybe it’s because I am looking for them but I think there are a lot more now. They used to be just flags on a pole, visible to all, but now we don’t even notice them, they blend in, they are hidden in plain view.

A couple of weeks ago I was talking with Toby Kamps at the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, where I am going to be part of a show he curated titled “Old Weird America,” he feels, from the start, it was just a marketing ploy.

Anyway, now I am curious, how did your town respond to 9/11 flag wise? Drop me a note here at the blog with your thoughts.

The Valley of Elah

tommy lee jones

Last week Mark was in town with a day off so we ditched the kids, well actually the kids ditched us, and caught our first movie in Norfolk where I am living and teaching at Old Dominion University. We went to the Naro, a very cool, old (1936), theatre to see The Valley Of Elah.

I wasn’t really expecting much, although I am a big Tommy Lee Jones fan from way back (Mark thinks it’s the three name thing, you know John Lee Hooker, Stevie Ray Vaughn) so I was surprised that I was really moved by this movie.

The movie effectively lets the viewer into the minds of young soldiers in Iraq who are unable to deal with the senseless, brutal, and horrific acts of a war that means nothing to them. Tommy Lee Jones, a retired career army man, and the father of a soldier who has gone missing, has a complete change of thinking and an awakening about the course America is on with this war. In the end he commits a hugely symbolic act with the flag (loved it!)

What touched me about The Valley of Elah was how effectively it relates one of the true devastations of this war, the destruction of the human mind.