Driving to the veterinarian’s office to pick up pain meds for our elderly arthritic Lab, I saw something I had never seen before — a front yard full of patriotic inflatables.
Super-size blow-up Christmas decorations are a common sight around here, rising from the ground even before Thanksgiving. There are more Halloween inflatables every year, and even Easter inflatables are not an uncommon sight. But patriotic inflatables? That’s a new one, for me anyway.
Plus, it’s May and isn’t Memorial Day supposed to more somber than celebratory? The 4th of July is weeks away. Assuming no incidents involving sharp objects, will plastic Uncle Sam still salute passing traffic through July?
Back at home, trying to describe this display to my husband and a son and his wife, I remember there were six or seven figures but can only remember two of them — the above-mentioned Uncle Sam and a giant red-white-and-blue top hat.
“What else was there?” I say. “What else could there be?”
Gleeful suggestions of “Mt. Rushmore!” “George Washington!” and “Abraham Lincoln!” are rejected as not quite hitting the mark.
“A plastic blow-up American flag!” Hilarious, we all agree.
“A tank!” is not found specifically patriotic.
“Fireworks!” is an inspired suggestion and sets us off in all directions (pun intended) with “exploding fireworks” pronounced the funniest and Uncle Sam riding a rocket that literally explodes as it zips into the sky as the most outrageous.
My husband attempts to change the subject to a baseball game he watched from the stands earlier in the day, a young pitcher who hit a ball high into the air where it wavered in the wind and —
“Apple pie!” our son says.
“Yes! An inflatable apple pie!”
“With a baseball smooshed right in the center,” son adds.
Three of us laugh and laugh. Husband/father is not amused. Baseball is serious stuff.
But so is everything else. This has been hammered home during these months of the pandemic, Black Lives Matter and the January 6th coup attempt. These are serious times.
The next morning, my husband points out what an appropriate metaphor red-white-and-blue patriotic inflatables are. Plastic. Full of air. Basically empty and likely to deflate with a sharp poke. Like so much of what passes for patriotism these days.
For months, it’s been too hard to write, too impossible to believe I have anything worth saying. Am I just virtue signaling? pontificating out of blind ignorance? I can question myself into immobility.
In the meantime, I stubbornly hang our flag on clear days, even though I refuse to pledge allegiance to a piece of cloth. I cling to the ideals the flag represents with the hope the collective We will yet carry that standard into a state of liberty and justice for all.
(P.S An exercise, if you wish. Can you identify examples of privilege folded into this text?)