The Offense of a Backyard Flag

JH

 

“Thou shall have no other Gods but me…” One of the earliest teachings of the known God is to not have other Gods. I would imagine that the worship of a God of cloth would especially enrage God. Hypocrisy has long been at the center of this experiment known as the United States of America. From the beginning, we have declared our love of God and our hatred of our neighbor. Genocide of Native populations. Slavery of persons of color. Incessant injustices perpetuated against marginalized and oppressed peoples. To say that we have not lived up to the values that we espouse is an understatement. The flag that so many have worshiped has become a symbol of terror to countless peoples. God demands fidelity because anything other than fidelity leads to brutality. God is not red. God is not white. God is not blue. God is God and the United States of America is not.

 

Board after board. Nail after nail. Screw after screw. I didn’t think we would ever finish. After multiple minor injuries, we finally nailed the last boards into our masterpiece. When we got down and walked a short distance to look up and admire our work, one of our young children suggested putting a “justice message” on the side facing the road. The next day, I painted one panel white and inscribed the words, “End Police Brutality” over that. I knew that a call from code enforcement would be imminent. Sure enough, one of my racist/ ignorant neighbors got pissed about the message and reported the sign. When the code enforcement officer called to tell me that the sign was against code, I asked him what was not, he quickly responded, “Flags.” From there, I traveled to a local junk store that always has everything and found a huge old USA flag. When I got home, I brought all five of our children in to make sure I painted it just right. In the midst of scorching heat, I secured the flag well over twelve feet in the air. It was a spiritual experience. God was with us. Those who idolize country more than God were not.

 

The first angry neighbor stopped by less than ten minutes after the thing was up. “Do you know that you are defacing our flag?” Yes.” “You’re ok with that?” “Yes…and I’m not ok with the flag of a nation that continues to brutalize persons of color.” The disabled Navy veteran proceeded to give me a lecture about patriotism. I responded that there is nothing more patriotic than fierce dissent in a free society. “I’m going to report you! This is Texas!” I guess she didn’t know that desecration of the flag is protected under the First Amendment.

 

While there have been others (including an explosion amongst local folks on Facebook), I am not fazed. I guess these folks don’t realize that injustice/police brutality desecrates all of this red, white and blue shit that people demand that you muster. Our flag isn’t going anywhere. I actually believe it is an incarnational representation of my faith. “Thou shall have no other Gods before me…”

 

Surely, the lives of persons of color are more important than any piece of cloth.

 

Multiple people have mentioned that Memorial Day is coming up. Great! Could there be a greater memorial than making sure that all people in our nation get to live into the ideals that so many have sacrificed for?

 

Be a real patriot. End police brutality.

 

Amen.

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