Wrapped in the Flag

Wrapped in the Flag Before sharing my opinion of those who wrap themselves in 'our' American Flag, I am talking about the real thing - Old Glory, not some 'image' of our National Banner on a T-Shirt intended for retail sales by some petty War Profiteer, let me first make it extremely clear that anyone who knows me will tell you that I would be the last person to 'volunteer' for THE FLAG POLICE.

Given my passionate oppositon to that diversion from Mandatory Funding of the VA, by the stagnant leadership of Nationalistic Organizations like the American Legion and VFW, the infamous Flag Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Yep, I would be the last Veteran on your block to be monitoring what you do or do not do with 'your' flag.

Wrapped in the Flag Does that mean that I condone desecration of Old Glory in any way, shape or form? NO! That said, the next time anyone at your local Bar and Bingo club tries to convince you that the U.S. Flag needs protection by an amendment to the Constitution, please tell them that (1) is not America's Veterans number one priority need or desire, and (2) there are more ways to desecrate the American Flag than burning, ripping, tearing, or throwing Chicken Hawk droppings on it...

What am I talking about when I get upset with ultra right-wing nuts taking it to the limit, making an Art out of, and obsession with wrapping themselves in the Flag. In all honesty, I sincerely do not believe this was intentional - just downwrong IGNORANCE!
This newspaper ad appeared in our local, small town gossip rag here in Beavercreek, the B...creek News-Current, with little retail sales or journalistic savvy, and surely knowing nothing about Flaq Etiquette published this ad. The photo from public domain is the closest example I could find to make a point. To barrow a phrase, I'll report - You Decide! What is WRONG with this picture.

Wrapped in the Flag You can give our troops a little piece of home.

Tobias Funeral Home makes it easy.

We all want the same thing, for our troops serving abroad to come back home safely. To help give the troops a little taste of home until then, Tobias Funeral Home is offering a program where you can provide items for a care package (such as toiletries, food and clothing), and to make it easier we'll supply the box, customs form, instructions and pay for shipping.

Step 1. Drop by to get a starter kit complete with box, customs form and instructions.

Step 2. Fill the box with your choice of approved goodies and complete the customs form. (The ad does not detail nor describe what exactly approved goodies means, so one has to call them, and that will not be ME!)

Step 3. Return the box and customs form to us between 12/4-12/6 (2007) and we'll take care of shipping. (That means folks have to provide a name and address to some GI serving in Iraq or Afghanistan to a Funeral Home that frankly is not authorized to have such info as location of any of our troops - DAH).

Please contact Tobias Funeral Home if you would like to show your support for the troops by participating.

Except for the parts I highlighted with my few comments on the ad, this Wrap a Funeral Home in the Flag come on is exactly as appeared in our Republican controlled and biased Hometown Newspaper in Southwestern Ohio.

OK-I reported now YOU DECIDE if the American Legion, VFW, plus any other Nationalistic organization needs to include this kind of petty War Profiteering in 'their' definition of Flag Desecration? It should be! However, I still would oppose it.

What I am about to tell you is how a sincere Patriot protects and defends Old Glory without being the Flag Police. You take ACTION regardless the consequences when you see that something is clearly WRONG!

My military families first reaction was what next?

Seriously, a few combat troops serving in the War Zone may deem this appropriate, however it is Sexist, and just because the young lady above has not blossomed yet does not make throwing Old Glory around either child any less desecrating to the Flag. Thus the next time any Veterans Organization wants to convince you that WE need a Flag Amendment, by all means PLEASE ensure the leadership of that VSO understand, and LEAD instead of making political hay. Demand that corporate and retail sales come ons in bad taste are included within those requiring prosecution for Flag Desecration.

Nope that will not fly, because most VSOs make just as much War Profit off flag desecration as this Funeral Home is trying to do, except they do not use sexy models or little girls wrapped in Old Glory. That does not make VSOs any less vulnerable to charges of Flag desecration, so they just best revise their logo and patriotic sales line to take off all inappropriate images exploiting 'our' American Flag.

That frankly is the main reason I am against any Flag Amendment, because those hypocrites that push such a travesty to Freedom of Expression are guilty to the extreme of doing exactly what they want outlawed. You see I am among the vast majority of Veterans that believe Flag Desecration goes far beyond burning, or anything done to the flag in protest or distress.

Those who know me will be shocked by my semi-polite response to the Funeral Home it was really intended to be sarcastic and satire. Let it be written that, "After we came down from the ceiling, at least I (a Military Veteran of two wars) regained my calm, cool, composure. I decided that instead of getting upset with the management of Tobias Funeral Home for not knowing any better, because that will only get us nowhere, so I choose to contact you and politely ask you in a nice way to remove that ad or at least get the little girl wrapped in Old Glory off your ad pitch.

Someone at Tobias really does not have a clue about U.S. Flag Etiquette, sensitivity to seriously sharing the burden and hardship of military families, nor understands how our military family support system that includes Commissary and Base Exchange outlets really works hard to 'Support Our Troops.'

Frankly, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) and Defense Commissary Service do wonderful jobs, especially during wartime, and particularly during the Christmas Shopping Season (not my preferred view of X-Mas but the truth). In fact, we have both Commissary and BX, PX outlets in the combat zone with civilian volunteers putting their lives in harms way along with our troops. With all this unsolicited support from corporate America, why would we need to have these 'civilians' place themselves in harms way? If you really want to support our troops than volunteer to deliver your care package personally to Iraq adn Afghanistan.

To be honest with you, your intent to send care packages from your 'Funeral Home' is taken 'by my Military family' as meaning well, but unsolicited packages do not get priority in the official Military Postal system, end up in a Warehouse rotting away, or are preferable given to poor Iraqi families that need 'care packages' more than our troops do.

I do not say this to offend your good intentions, on the contrary, it is commendable, however as the family member of a Soldier having been to Iraq, I personally know that our troops prefer to give what they receive ‘from family and close friends' to poor Iraqi families. Think about it, if our troops prefer to do that with what they receive from intimate relations and love ones, what do you believe they are going to do with anything you - a stranger, and Funeral Home at that, ‘may' impossibly get through to them?

I am only being a good neighbor by informing you that some Military Families in the Beavercreek reading area may take offense to how your intent is depicted. In fact, someone at the 'ad payment' collection section of the Times paper outlet should have advised your company to change the image to reflect one of the local military families endorsing your effort, for example. Evidently whoever approved this ad for publication also has no sensitivity to military families nor took the time to consider Flag Etiquette, or they would have given you the proper advice to enhance your presentation.

If I may offer a humble suggestion, did whoever planned this appreciative gesture at Tobias Funeral Home check with the local Beavercreek American Legion or VFW to inquire about the appropriateness of having a child wrap the U.S. Flag around them for a newspaper ad from a Funeral Home, regardless what the intent or motivation was?

That is what I would have done before having that advertisement from your funeral home published in any media. In fact, you may expect to receive some concern from both those organizations, and others that have passionately pushed an Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that could possible result in you being prosecuted for what you have done in that ad IF that bill had ever passed the U.S. Congress.

In closing, my intend is to inform and educate you, in a polite manner, and in a nice way about just how ‘inappropriate' asking that ad be published seriously is, and the editorial board at our local newspaper evidently lacks the intellect, retail sales, or journalistic savvy to do right by your gesture, especially if you paid to have the ad published. I would ask for your money back. The Beavercreek News-Current has done both Tobias Funeral Home and the Military Families of the area a great disservice by not professionally advising your business on ad content.

I hope and pray that this commentary is taken in the spirit intended. By all means your gesture is appreciated by our child at least even if he/she is going to give anything you send to the poor in Iraq. Frankly, that extends your gesture one step further and is more meaningful to the War effort. PLEASE quietly revise your ad. The Department of Defense via their approved, sponsored, and monitored ‘outside' Troop Support Network - America Supports You maintains a website at americasupportsyou.mil. if I got it wrong look it up!

If you have not already contacted them, which I assume you have. They are the 'official' Pentagon clearinghouse for any outside communication with our troops that does not come from immediate military family members. Please understand that this is not meant as an affront to your Funderal Home, but is intended to protect the security of our troops. America Supports You could even point you towards an appropriate ‘public domain' photo that would really enhance your ad not detract from it by desecrating the American Flag in your sales come on.

Robert L. Hanafin

Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired

Former Iraq Veterans Dad

Patriotism and the expatriate

flags“Ms. Katie, are you PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party]?” one of my students asked me last week. I was totally floored and stood speechless in front of my class of 20 third-graders.

What should have been a fun lesson on Halloween had suddenly gone out the window. In the spirit of the holiday, we had been talking about what we were afraid of. I was expecting the usual responses such as “I’m afraid of spiders,” but instead was getting “I’m afraid of the PKK.” Not only that, but I had a poor student wondering if his American English teacher, probably the first foreigner he had ever seen in his life, was working for the terrorists he feared.

I quickly answered “no” and hastily moved on to another topic. The question stuck with me though, and left me pondering and brooding all weekend. First, my anger was directed at the Turkish media, which in my view is stirring up the country more than necessary and is starting to make it dangerous for any non-Turkish person living in Turkey. Then, my anger moved to parents, who are probably watching the news with their children or talking about these volatile issues at the dinner table -- without regard to small ears listening but not fully understanding what’s going on. To them, the PKK could be any foreigner. They see that the PKK are killing Turkish people and are afraid that they and their families are in danger. Why plague an 8-year-old with these worries? Can’t people wait until their children are in bed before turning on the horribly graphic Turkish news? I plead with parents here to please be more careful about what your children are exposed to.

As an American expat living in İstanbul for over four years, I have had many questions asked to me by taxi drivers, neighbors and others about my country and government. While the American media has been quick to note that anti-American sentiment is on the rise in Turkey, I would still be quick to counter that fact. Almost all Turkish people, even the farmer at my local bazaar who only attended school through the eighth grade, have managed to have civil, objective conversations with me when finding out my nationality. Yes, there are questions, but I still don’t feel that I am in any physical danger in Turkey because of my nationality. Still, when I respond to the frequent “nerelisiniz?” (where are you from?) the questions start. What do I think of President Bush? Why doesn’t the US help against the PKK? Do all Americans hate Turks? Do Americans think all Muslims are terrorists? I try as hard as I can with my broken Turkish to explain that although I am American, I neither represent my government nor support many of its decisions. I tell them that all Americans are not like how they are portrayed in films and on television, and that the average American wants the same things the average Turkish person wants. Always, after a few minutes of conversation, I am thanked by the respective person and we part ways, both of us better for our brief exchange. However, on the flipside, I also know when to hide the fact that I am American and to say I am Canadian when asked. I am not proud of this, but sometimes I just am not in the mood to play the role of diplomat or ambassador.

I was born a post-Watergate baby, during a time when patriotism had reached a low point in the US. The disillusionment of the Vietnam conflict and the ultimate betrayal of Watergate were still fresh on everyone’s minds. My parents had been raised by World War II vets, who had that sense of patriotism that Turks now exhibit, and were proud of the country they fought so hard to defend. By the 1970s however, there was a huge gap between my grandparents’ generation and my parents. Although my elementary school days had flag ceremonies and we all faithfully recited the pledge of allegiance every morning, something was missing in our lives that our parents and grandparents had grown up with. The most nationalistic I ever felt was in 1990-1991 during the Gulf crisis. I remember drawing a flag, hanging it in my bedroom window and praying for the soldiers every night. As I grew older, patriotism fell by the wayside as American dominance in the world rose. Why and how I started to lose it, I still am not sure.

When I moved to Turkey four years ago, I liked the privileges that being American here afforded me. Doors in this country closed to many expats with different passports than mine were opened wide for me. As time passed, I stopped relying on my US passport, and now try to dodge questions about where I’m from in general conversation. As Turkish anger grows, so does the danger level. I feel guilty at how easy it is to hide my passport, and how hurt I feel when I am questioned about the decisions my country has made and supported since Sept. 11. Deep down I am a Pollyanna, and I used to believe that even though it seemed like my government’s policy was bad, it actually was for the greater good and would someday make me and my fellow countrymen proud. This has continually been shattered post Sept. 11, to the point that I start crying sometimes when I see the American flag. Not tears of happiness or pride, but tears of grief. I have lost my patriotism, my pride in my country, and my heart is broken. I am jealous of Turkish people and their pride in Turkey and Atatürk. I want to be proud of my flag and our national heroes. I don’t want to be ashamed to be American, and I especially don’t want to be defending my nationality to a classroom of 8-year-olds.

The only person who can understand what I am going through is a Turkish friend of mine living in California. She owned a Turkish restaurant, but after so many threats from Americans after Sept. 11, she, like many other Turkish business owners in the US switched it to a “Greek” restaurant. When asked where she is from, she says “Greece.”

“To Americans, Muslim terrorists blew up the trade center, and since I am Muslim, from a Muslim country, they think I can answer their questions about why those events happened. I am not a representative for Muslims. I got tired of defending myself, and it just became easier and better for business to say I am Greek,” she told me. I know exactly how she feels. In Turkey no one hates Canadians, and my home state of Michigan is close enough to Canada to assuage the guilt slightly.

So I will continue to occasionally say I am Canadian, although I still hope for the day I can proudly say that I am American. Until then, I support my adopted country, and my fiancé and I proudly hang our crescent and star flag from our window. I feel a glow of patriotism when I see that flag, even though it is not the flag of the country I was born in. Maybe Turkish people can teach an expatriate how to feel patriotic once again.