Tuesday, July 4, 2017

"Refusing A Flag"

An ongoing dilemma in a patriotic terrain that takes not at all kindly to perceived snubs of “The Stars and Stripes.”

I have on my desk, in an empty Golden Malted Gingerbread Pancake and Waffle Flour container, a Canadian flag and an American flag.  On the appropriate occasions, I remove one or the other or both of those flags from the empty Golden Malted Gingerbread Pancake and Waffle Flour container and I plant them temporarily in the flowerbed in front of our house, honoring the commemorative milestone, whatever it is.

On a Larry Sanders episode, it was assumed that Larry was Jewish.

“I’m not Jewish”, Sanders explained.  “I’m something else.”

Ditto with me in this context.

I am not patriotic.  I’m something else.

But I am unquestionably something.

So I have these two flags.  I have other American flags as well, mini-flags and larger, face-towel-sized flags.  I have accumulated these various star spangled banners courtesy of the annual Santa Monica Fourth of July Parade, proceeding traditionally down Main Street, two blocks from our house.

We have attended the Santa Monica Fourth of July Parade every year since there were grandchildren, which means now, five parades.  It is nothing elaborate.  Teams of real estate ladies drive by in festively decorated, vintage vehicles, waving away, like they’re the Royal Court at the Rose Bowl Parade.  High school bands parade by, blaring recognizable melodies set to unusual marching band arrangements.  Police officers saunter past on horseback, their casual smiles saying, “We are 'fun people' with side-arms.”  Assorted “Uncle Sam’s”, wobble by precariously on stilts.

It’s fun.  The participants give away candy.  Or cardboard fans with company logos on them.

And then, there’s the flags.

They give away lots of flags.

That’s where the protocol problem arises. 

How do you say “No” to an American flag?

Without raising grumbling suspicions of Communist proclivities.
I do not know how to politely turn down an offered American flag on a stick.  It’s like a litmus test.  You say no to a flag, the word quickly gets around, and before you can say, “Senator McCarthy of Wisconsin” it’s “Get him!” 

Followed shortly thereafter by “Get a rope.”

The thing is, I have enough flags.  And I have no idea what to do with them.  And now, they are offering me more flags?  And daring me challengingly not to take them?

I mean, what are you supposed to do with those extra flags you don’t need?  You cannot throw them away in the trash.  That’s like recycling the Torah.  You have to keep them.  Whether you need them or not.  I mean, you toss them out, the trash collectors unload the bins into the back of their truck, and bunches of American flags come fluttering out?  What’ll they think of me? 

What are the chances my trashcans won’t be hideously desecrated?  They tear off a wheel, and for the rest of its life, it makes that raspy drag-on-the-pavement rattle when you roll it.

You’re stuck with a trashcan with a permanent limp. 

Salvation Army, anyone?  I don’t think so.  Do the indigent and downtrodden really need thrown-away flags?

The future looked ominous.  If I accepted one every time one was offered to me, how could that possibly end?

"What's it that room?"


There are no viable options.  They give you a flag – you take it.  And when you take it, you can never throw it away.

After five years of bannerial blackmail – “Take a flag, or else” – I finally landed on a possible solution.  I’m kind of excited I came up with anything.  This is not me, trying to be humble.  When it comes to problem solving – this is not theoretical; they exist in my family – there are five year-olds who are better problem solvers than I am.  I have some admirable gifts.  But knowing reflexively how to handle things does not happen to be one of them.  And if I think it through real hard, it only gets worse.

POMERANTZ:  (WAILING)  “I don’t knowwwwwww!   

This time, I believe I am onto something.  And it is surprisingly simple.

When leaving the house, I grab one of the numerous flags I have already accumulated, and I take that flag with me to the parade.  Do you see where I’m going with this?  Then, when I am offered a flag by a parade participant, I thank the offerer appreciatively and say,

“I already have one.”

Is that genius, or what?

I believe it’s the answer.  I really do.

Okay, I am off to the parade. 

And I am getting my flag.

I’ll let you know how it works out.

But I have to tell you. 

I am sensing a breakthrough.

Happy Fourth of July, everybody.  I feel more American than ever this year.

America means ingenuity.

And what’s more ingenious than finding a polite way of rejecting a flag?

1 comment:

B. Ross said...

Give those extra flags to the Boy Scouts, the VFW or the American Legion. They'll gladly accept them. So would the parade organizer, quite likely.