Red Flags (#226)

You know what I was excited about when Andy and I bought our house?

Putting up a flag pole. I couldn’t wait to fly seasonal house flags.

I envisioned a flag with flowers for summer, an autumn flag with falling leaves, a black cat for Halloween, and Christmas flag with a polar bear. Of course I would fly the Stars & Stripes for Independence Day.

As soon as Andy got the flag pole installed, I went shopping. The local stores had all kinds of flags. The American flag was easy to find, of course.

Typical flag example.

The majority of the flags were filled with overly cutesy, cartoony children and animals. Not my style.

The remaining flags celebrated alcohol. Also not my style (though if they ever make a beer and bourbon flag, I’m totally getting it for Andy).

No one seemed to make flags for thirty-two-year olds that don’t drink. At least not in my neighborhood, which definitely was mostly retired, blue-collar, and catholic.

No shortage of celebratory drinking flags.

I gave up and went shopping online. There I found the flags of all sports teams and a greater selection of Hallmark’s finest flags.

I finally found; they carried some realistic silk prints. I indulged in an orgy of seasonal buying and house flagged with gusto.

We got a new neighbor across the street with young children. She went in for cutesy  flags, changing hers almost as much as I did. I found a flag with loons to remind my of my beloved New Hampshire. She put out flags lauding beach life and alcohol. Another neighbor tried to match us, then finally told me one day, “That’s it. I can’t keep up with you guys. I’m just gonna fly the American flag.”

This fit it in with my conservative, retired neighborhood. 50% of all the houses flew American flags until they were bleached and battered. I passed one neighbor on flag duty almost every morning at dawn. He put out the Stars & Stripes at first light, and took it in every night. The only time he flew a different flag was when UCLA had a football game.

My house-flagging neighbor’s husband got tired of being out-patrioted and put up a second flag pole to fly the U.S. flag daily.

This past year, I’ve been too busy trying to keep up with the news to worry about house decor. I’ve watched in horror as the Trump administration has looted government agencies, supported white supremacists, tanked NATO, refused to honor its international treaties, and put brown babies in internment camps. I’ve marched. And marched again. I’ve donated money, time, and writing and research to resist and support those in the most danger.

I forgot about flags until it was June. June is Pride month in the United States. I live near a middle school. I overhear multiple kids who are gay or bisexual. Many of them have conservative parents. One Latino boy only revealed his gay crush after swearing another boy to secrecy, saying, “It’s worth my life if my father ever finds out.”

I cried when I heard that. I wanted to adopt that kid immediately and tell him he could live with me and crush on anyone and I would still love him.

As I am not the Trump administration and know that kidnapping is wrong, I went looking for a rainbow house flag instead. I found one easily. I guess those house flag folks realized there is money to be made in modernizing their inventory. For Pride month, I flew that flag daily. One mom saw it at after school pick-up. She yelled, “I LOVE your flag!”

Another asked me why I was flying it. I told her, “Maybe some of the kids at the school will see it and take heart.”

She hugged me.

My white, conservative, American flag-flying neighbors have pointedly said nothing.

This morning, I took down my rainbow flag as one of those neighbors was passing. He nodded approvingly and said, “You’re going to put up the American flag today, right?”


“But it’s Independence Day! Today, of all days, you should fly the flag!”

I folded up my rainbow flag and asked, “Would you fly a Nazi flag?”

“No! Of course not!”

“Neither will I.”


Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

10 thoughts on “Red Flags (#226)”

  1. It is hard during this administration to demonstrate patriotism because it seems to approve of his antics. We fly the US flag with the conviction that this too will pass but you won’t find any red baseball caps (they were big around here during the election). Any red hat even without words was trashed.

    1. Patriotism looks like an endorsement of the current administration and I just can’t. Andy got some flag stamps and I find myself writing “The flag stamp on the front is in now way an endorsement of the current practices of this government,” on the back of birthday card envelopes. Let us hope it does, indeed, pass.

  2. I’m feeling incredibly unpatriotic today. Couldn’t be more horrified by what is happening at our border. The trauma being forced on families, fleeing for their lives. It’s just too much.

  3. We’re becoming a combination of Nazi Germany and Putin’s Russia.

    I do feel patriotic, but not in a flag-flying sort of way. After living abroad for twenty years, I’m glad I’m back home, so I can do my part in saving our country from Trumpian decline and turmoil and hatred.

  4. You’re so cool, Autumn. When I get my first home I’m totally putting up that flag for pride.

    And good for you telling off your neighbor. Sheesh. Our country and patriotism (especially now)… ugh it’s a headache. I feel so complicated looking at the flag these days.

    1. I had a hard time with the flag when Bush was President, and ha, I didn’t think it could get worse. Which was stupid of me. Our country can — and has — done amazing things. But mostly for white people. 🙁

  5. Ha, that punchline at the end. It seems like Americans have so much pride in the flags they fly. Here in Australia (and also in Malaysia and Singapore), flags rile people’s sensitivities so easily and over the years flags have been burned in the middle of violent clashes in the middle of the city. It’s rare that you’ll see anyone flying a flag in front of their yard here, let alone on a flag pole apart from Australia day where some Aussies seem fond of draping the flag around their shoulders in the name of celebration.

    1. Yes, people here also wear the flag. There’s a whole protocol to how the flag is supposed to be treated, actually — not flown at night, never touching the ground, etc. Yet the people who scream about liberals disrespecting the flag by protesting are the same ones who sit their asses right down on flag beach towels, or wear Stars & Stripes as bikinis, etc.

      There’s something wrong when the symbol of a country becomes more important than the people in the country.

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