One of my favourite movies under the subheading “Cheesy Guilty Pleasure” is the original Red Dawn. The Red Menace invades the Good Ol’ USA and locks up good people in re-education camps, so it’s up to a roving band of kids to fight back. They do, and America is saved. Back in the 80s the idea of America-imperiled was big because there was also the miniseries Amerika on TV; I don’t remember it very well, but I do know I liked it enough to buy the paperback novelisation. That was the first time I saw an upside-down flag, on the cover of that book.*
When I think of the upside-down flag, that’s what I think of. Invaders with guns parachuting into Kansas and locking my parents up in a drive-in theatre to watch Castro Indoctrination Films 24/7.
I have at least five friends who this morning changed their social media avatars to upside down flags to reflect their feelings about the outcome of the election, and it befuddles me. The UDF* is a symbol of distress, not petulance. It’s a call to arms, not a method of pouting.
Here’s the thing, folks. If you think that the America You Love® is doomed or in trouble, this is a peculiar time to declare it. Perhaps a better time would have been during the early days of the Patriot Act when it became obvious that we were losing liberty in great handfuls so that The Terrorists could be stopped. Or maybe you should have pitched a fit about it when airports were paramilitarised and flying to Disney World became indistinguishable from crossing the border into Hungary. (Now that I think about it, I crossed the border into Hungary in 1986 with more ease than I was able to get on that Southwest flight a year ago.) The America You Love® has been fading away for a good while now.
But it hasn’t entirely gone, you see. You can tell that by the fact that you GET to have a picture of an UDF on your Twitter or Facebook without hulking armed forces knocking down your door and locking you in the repurposed basement of an old Sears downtown. You got to go to the polls yesterday and have your say. The thing is, so did everybody else. I’m betting that there was not one person who cast a vote in this election that doesn’t love America. So when you start being distressed over the fact that free people get to be free and make the choices that free people make you really look like maybe you don’t love the America That Is, but only love the America As You Personally Think It Should Be. Because this vote–like it or not–was one of the parts of the America You Love® which is still around. It’s kind of turning your back on the thing you purport to believe in to protest the outcome of that freedom.
I’m a libertarian. I’m very open about the fact that I believe America isn’t living up to all of its ideals or potential. But I’m not about to sit here and look at my friends, coworkers and neighbours and tell them that because we have different ideas about how the country should be that we must go to war. That is the gravest disrespect of America that I can imagine. It’s also a bit ironic that so many of my UDF friends are both upset over the ongoing legality of abortion on demand AND saying things like “we get what we deserve” as they hope for the country to enter a period of suffering. Because all the people you want to suffer are just as human as the babies you hope to save.
Is America in distress? I don’t think so. I think America is still here and still being America. You can rehang your flags right-side-up.
*Actually, it’s possible the novel came before the show. I don’t know for sure.
**I’ve got to abbreviate this sucker because I don’t want to spend my word count on the same three words repeated endlessly, even though this is NaNoWriMo and word-padded writing is de rigeur.