Liberal reporter turned liberal nytimes.com blogger, Timothy Egan, posted Thursday at nytimes.com, "Capture the Flag," abouthow hearteningit was to seeAmerican flagspop up in liberal domains. The post was ostensibly a plea forpeople of all political views to have faith in thefuture good of thecountry. But Eganexcused liberals for their lack of public patriotism during the Bush years, citing "years of sanctioned torture and war built on deceit."
Traveling in California and New York over the last couple of weeks, I noticed something in the summer landscape of these two deeply blue states that is more reminiscent of rural America this time of year - a surfeit of American flags.
Among the offerings of street vendors in Harlem and outdoor stalls near the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the flag is often fused with the image of President Obama, a burst of color against a bleak wall, sometimes with a Superman motif. In California, I saw Old Glory on bicycles in the Bay Area, on backpacks in Yosemite and at campgrounds under the redwoods.
It's not unusual to see a flag in liberal provinces, of course. But in the Bush years of sanctioned torture and war built on deceit, many Americans withdrew from overt displays of patriotism. Some said they were ashamed of their country.
While following the length of the Lewis and Clark Trail several years ago, I was struck by the huge number of flags in places like rural Missouri, Iowa, South Dakota and Montana. On Indian reservations, the same thing - though often with tribal symbols superimposed. But in the major cities along the trail, St. Louis and Portland among them, I was hard-pressed to find a flag in front of a home.
I wondered whether urban Americans, overwhelmingly Democratic, had something against the flag, or if they felt the country was no longer theirs. Now you can ask the same question of the other side of the political spectrum.
Egan insisted that a fringe secessionist movement in Texas matched the unrelenting Bush-hatred shown by the left for eight years (while ignoring Texas's unique entry into the Union, which makes talk of secession less odd than it would in other states).
At the same time, in deep red states like Texas, where secession talk heated up in the first months of the Obama presidency, there has been a passionate public embrace of the vaunted Lone Star flag, symbol of independence dating to the days of the Republic of Texas. Incidentally, the blue in that flag stands for loyalty, as defined by state code.
In this cooling of nationalistic ardor, Texans are little different from those who felt left out during the previous eight years, including Obama. After George W. Bush won his second term, a Web retailer started selling "the official flag of the United Blue States of America," which had 20 stars - one for each of the 19 states, and the District of Columbia, that went Democratic in 2004.