Thursday, January 13, 2011


I invite the reader to try to recall the very first thought that came to mind upon viewing this photo. Then, read on.

I disguised my intent for the moment by titling this post "Predictions." On my blog, blackoaknaturalist, I titled the same photo "Calm Before Storm." This was on Monday, January 10. I had set out to photograph the beautiful cloud pattern above Mt. Hough and Grizzly Peak. This particular pattern usually predicts a storm arriving within the next 24 to 48 hours. Sure enough, the next morning it was snowing. As I walked around the school yard, "shooting" from various angles, this view of the American flag in front of the clouds struck me. I had a flashback to my youth, during the Eisenhower administration, when I thought of the flag as a very positive symbol of the country I loved. At the time we were not involved in any wars i knew of. Thus, when I thought of the flag, I didn't think of war, or politics, or "us vs. them" in any other context. In other words, I was innocent.

In recent years, it seems to me, the flag has been adopted as a weapon of propaganda, as a symbol to foment nationalism, imperialism, racial superiority, and all sorts of other right-wing messages. More often than not, I associate it with people who are angry. So, "flag waving" can be a predictor of political storms much like certain cloud patterns predict atmospheric storms.

Another image that comes to mind when I see the flag is that of a caravan of muddy pick-ups on a Friday night in the fall, each displaying large American flags from their beds and smaller ones on their antennae, rear-view mirrors, etc. This is a predictor of still another kind of storm, namely, an intense football rivalry. Interesting how pre-game pep rally rhetoric resembles war rhetoric.

A few years ago I was collecting small national flags from as many countries as I could. It started when I was teaching Spanish and I tried to find the flags of all 20 Spanish-speaking countries. I was attracted by the variety of graphic designs and the cultural icons, such as in the Mexican flag, and I had no thoughts of the nationalsim inherent in these flags. Another period of innocence.

Now that I've got that out of my system, I will return to enjoying this photo the way I enjoyed the flag when I was in junior high - innocently. I won't fly one on my home or on my vehicle for fear that people might get the right idea. Thanks, Linda, for suggesting the phrase, "Let's take back our flag."