The Suitcase Lady

Tallest

July 3, 2018, 10:15 pm

In the city down the road from us is what purports to be “the tallest symbol of freedom in the world”. A wealthy insurance company flies a gigantic American flag from a pole that resembles a huge industrial smokestack.

I personally believe the flag and pole, outsized as they are, cannot live up to that claim. The French are as free as we are, are part of the world and have an iconic symbol, the Eiffel Tower, that checks in at 1,063 feet. The behemoth flagpole is only 400 feet tall.

I do, however, give the company credit for understanding a basic American cultural belief that biggest is always better. Ours is a country that puts its faith in size. Unfortunately, biggest and best are not interchangeable words.

The idea that more is always better is an unsustainable idea on a small, mostly blue planet with limited resources. Plus, it is an ideal that did not show up in our Constitution. Our wise founders had had enough of kings so they did not say that “All the tallest men with the biggest piles of stuff” are created equal. Patriotism is not about making everything; flags, houses, cars, food, televisions, bombs, jails, armies and campaign contributions, bigger and bigger all the time.

A huge number of Americans now think that patriotism and nationalism are the same thing. It is not hyperbole to say that at this moment in history, America is in a fight for its soul. If we must deal in superlatives, may we be among the most democratic, decent  and wise countries of the world. I can’t think of a better wish for the Fourth of July.

Note that we will be flying our flag tomorrow. We received that flag after my beloved Aunt Jane’s military funeral. She was an army nurse in World War II working with the wounded and dying in a tent hospital behind the front lines in the Pacific. Her flag, of course, is not the tallest symbol of freedom in the world. But it is among the best, and thousands and thousands of families like ours have them.

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