Driving back along Interstate 40 from holiday visiting, I noticed a flash of bright red, white and blue in the grassy median. Then another. Then more. I kept glancing, in disbelief. There, in the ditch, along with beer cans and fast food wrappers were American flags. They were not posted there, with patriotic respect. They were haphazardly discarded, like other careless litter. At least one per mile, and sometimes three or four. For two months, I’d noticed the increasing number of tattered and torn flags flying from vehicles. It seems the larger the gas-guzzeler, the more flags fluttering and the more catewampus flag decals stuck on. Didn’t these motorists understand that for the past decade, their addiction to gas-guzzelers had been financing the rise of terrorism from the middle east? Where was their patriotism all those years when they could have slowed the flow of foreign oil? The major export from Arab countries is oil. The only thing that has financed the rise in terrorism has been our addiction to their oil. Duh! Though I didn’t go far in Boy Scouts, those summer camps did teach me a great respect for the flag. They taught us how to display it, how not to, and to respectfully burn it when it’s soiled or damaged beyond repair. I’ve read recently that there is no “official” flat etiquette, which is why ’60s hippies got away with wearing it stitched to the seat of their pants. But is it not just as bad to imperil the flag by sticking it on a breakable plastic window post knowing you’ll be roaring down the highway at 70 mph? Or sticking it to your car antenna and let it shred itself into an unrecognizable tatter, like the two I saw just this morning? Many of the same sunshine patriots who boast their love of country by displaying more flags than the next guy are the same ones who before 9-11 dumped on ideas like “energy independence” and “conservation” – and still do. If you want to become a true patriot, figure out how you can cut your gasoline consumption in half by conservation, using public transportation, car pooling and parking your SUV. Then support a massive alternative energy development program that will wean us off our addiction to foreign oil. Oil has been the life blood of terrorism. Energy conservation is the greatest contribution we ordinary citzens can make in the fight against terrorists. Billions spent to root them out will never match the effectiveness of starving them out. In case you didn’t notice, the Arab oil cartel just upped the price of crude. While we defend them against the spread of terrorism, they raise the cash flow to finance it – smiling and waving our flag all the while. Oil caused the attack on Pearl Harbor. Oil has caused every recession in our lifetimes. Oil caused the Gulf War. Oil caused Ground Zero and brought the war on terrorism. Hasn’t dependence on someone else’s resource caused enough weakness and waste in our nation? Haven’t three wars been enough to teach us something? Kudos to those who fly the flag properly, with respect. But it’s time our patriotism becomes more than a symbol. Energy self-sufficiency is a patriotic, five-year, accomplishable goal. It’s the New War for Independence for the 21st century that we can win. We must, for future generations. Do something positive to end your personal dependence on foreign oil. Then stand tall, and look at your flag with a renewed sense of pride, knowing you’ve done something that matters.
Gene MessickParkWatch Supervisor