TWO FLAGS


My wife noted a magazine from The Hermitage, an Arizona organization that rescues cats, animals near and dear to me.  The Hermitage had adopted 61 “unadoptable” cats from Animal Control in southern Arizona, finding homes for 42….so far.  My wife supports The Hermitage, which unfortunately had bad press several years ago from conflicts from within.

For once, I said the right phrase:  “Sounds like two groups, equally passionate about animals, couldn’t find agreement.”

I am not sure what the issue was, but it hurt the organization, which I doubt either side wanted.  Indeed, I am certain both sides had feline welfare as a priority.  It is possible for people to love something and have strongly differing views on how to best help it.  Not only is it possible, it is likely.  The irony is that squabbling hurts both sides and the issue they support.

This statement applies to the country at large.  I know people whom I call “friend,” in the true meaning of the word, with whom I have significant disagreements about what ought to be done by America.  Somehow, we usually manage to sort a lot of it out, usually with humor, sometimes by finding common ground where we do agree.  Too often I remain silent, because I could hurt them verbally.

Americans disagree, which should be expected, given that there are a third of a billion of us.  What bothers me a great deal is the idea that one side “owns” patriotism and love of country.  My detractors don’t own patriotism, nor do I.  Waving the flag everywhere is like two people in love who insist upon smooching in public.  It gets a bit tiring.  You love something or somebody far more by your behavior than by public showing of affection.

I don’t like stock phrases like “land grab,” when a national monument is created.  Yes, there are rules that now apply to that land that once didn’t apply, but much land has been taken over privately, and it is no longer able to be used at all by people who once could use it.  I think Mr. Bundy had a land grab of his own.  Had I decided to use the land on which his cattle were grazing, I reckon he might have been upset.  I don’t like “useless bureaucracy.” If a person suddenly wants the FDA to check on the origin of meat that comes from abroad, the FDA is suddenly not useless.  Nor is the CDC, when it tries to deal with a new viral infection.  Nor are the police and other first responders, paid by the public to protect the public. Nor was FEMA, when Governor Christie needed help after Hurricane Sandy.  A wise psychologist told me long ago that “all” or “nothing” statements are an entry into depression.  Are ALL governmental workers bad?  Are ALL politicians bad?  Is NO Democrat good?  Really?  NONE at all?

It is normal to contradict one’s own beliefs.  We all do at times.  It is also normal not to like laws or government except when it suits us.  I do, however, have a different take from those who think the Confederate Flag honors a “rebel” heritage while simultaneously spread the American flag out over an entire football stadium to show their patriotism.  Secession was treason, and rebel is a poor euphemism.  The Confederate Flag flew for four years over eleven states which seceded from the Union.  Had it not been for nearly three million Union soldiers, one-third of whom would become casualties, one-eighth of whom would die, we would have remained a fractured country.  That is the truth. The states have many rights, a problem for those of us who travel from one to another, be it with local taxes, customs, speed limits, medical care, or odd laws.  There are many things in the country that need standardization, and 50 states each doing it differently is not wise.  As for that flag, it can sit in a museum.  I don’t wish to see it.

Ironically, many who want States’ Rights have no use for “socialist” Europe, which to me is a classic example of States’ Rights taken to the extreme.  I’ve been to Europe eleven times.  We could learn a great deal from Europeans about health care, transportation, education, fluency in languages, and efficient energy use.  Europeans could learn from us about unity.  Are any of the 8 federated entities from the former Yugoslavia a player on the world stage today?  No way.  I can count 40—yes, forty—different countries west of the Black Sea and north of Turkey.  The European Union has had trouble with one currency.  The cultural differences alone should have negated Greece’s ever joining the EU, although the Greek statistician who was honest about the country’s finances was jailed.  I don’t find multiple languages, cultures, defense, and currencies a strength, but rather a weakness.  Make America 50 different countries, and our influence would be profoundly degraded.

We need mandatory national service by the young, to relearn that “civil servant” is an honorable career, the way it once was, denoting respect for one whose life was public service and whose service did not make him as rich as one who worked for a privately owned company. We don’t pick and choose which laws to obey.  There is a Constitution, and the states have many rights, all that are not specifically granted to the Federal government.

Many squabbles are ultimately arbitrated by the Supreme Court.  The Justices are appointed for life by the President.  Many who don’t vote for president, “because there is no difference,” might be chastened to realize what can happen to the Supreme Court for the next fifty years by a presidential election.  The law can be changed if the Court changes.  That may or may not be good.  Given the Citizens United decision, 5-4, where money was allowed to flood politics, I am worried about this Court.

But the law is the law.  If I don’t like it, I must work to change it, through words, active protests, economic boycotts, but always through legal means.  If I don’t like staying here, I have the choice to leave.  I don’t have the choice here to do what I want without regard to the law.  Nor does anybody who has the “Stars and Bars” on his pickup.

I was disturbed at the outcry about the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell vs. Hodges.  I fail to see how love of another person who has the same variant of human sexuality is wrong.  Citizens United and Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby were both horrible decisions, far more reaching than gay marriage, which doesn’t affect me a bit.  In the final analysis, of the two decisions that momentous week, the Affordable Care Act was by far the most important, while Obergefell vs. Hodges was part of civil rights.  It was a week where two flags will soon be relegated to history for very different reasons: one because it was a sign of treason and failure, the other because it symbolized a wish that came true.

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