Underneath my yellow skin

No Flag, No Country

Eddie Izzard is hilarious, and he has several bits about being an empire and colonization. It’s funny because it’s apt, and he has the typical British self-deprecatory sense of humor. One of my favorites is one in which he tells how the UK became a great empire with the cunning use of…flags.

“I claim India for Britain.”

“You can’t claim us. We live here. Five hundred million of us!”

“Do you have a flag?” (Funny grimace.)

“We don’t need a bloody flag. It’s our country, you bastard.”

“No flag, no country; you can’t have one. That’s the rules that I’ve just made up! And I’m backing it up with this gun that was lent from the National Rifle (riffle, as he pronounces it) Association.”

(Back to being Eddie)

“And that was it. You know.”


I bring it up because of the brouhaha being stirred up over the American flag, which isn’t really the issue, even though it’s become the center of the drama.

Quick background: Colin Kaepernick, an NFL quarterback, took a knee last year during the national anthem as a peaceful way of protesting the systemic injustices that black people, men in particular, suffer in this country. The backlash was swift, and he became a pariah to many white Americans. They wanted him to just play football and keep his politics out of their Sunday entertainment.

Fast-forward to this year and this past week. This president opened his gob and more stupid shit fell out. For whatever reason, he thought it would be a good idea to comment on the situation and said:

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners — when somebody disrespects our flag — to say, ‘Get that son of a b*tch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!'”

Now, I’m not surprised that’s what he said because it’s who he is, but he didn’t have to open his mouth at all. He could have said nothing, and it would have been better than what he did say. Then again, that’s true of approximately 99% of what he says. Before I get into the meat of what he said and why it’s idiotic, the best response to this shitty statement is from Colin Kaepernick’s mother, Teresa. She tweeted:

OT: I really hate the habit of using an asterisk for one letter of a ‘controversial’ word (or more asterisks for more letters), especially in a written piece. Who the f*ck do you think you’re fooling? Like, people aren’t just putting in the g*dd*mn letters as they’re reading? It’s even worse than saying ‘n-word’. There’s a great Louis CK bit about this that says, “You’re just making me say the word in my head so you don’t have to be uncomfortable saying it out loud.” Anyhooooo….

The condemnation was swift, but so was the support. The conservatives have given themselves tendinitis seeing who can wave their American flags faster, harder, and more vigorously. I tweeted:

I remember the aftermath of 9/11 and how if you didn’t have a flag in your yard, you were considered a traitor to the country. I watched in disgust–and fear–as PROUD ‘MURIKANS waved the flag, thumped their chests, and acted in a completely horrific manner under the guise of patriotism. I watched the right-wing take the word, corrupt it, and now it’s barely shadow of its former self. Make no mistake. We’ve never been the country our ideals would have us believe we are–but at least there was lip service to aspiring to be something bigger and better than what we were. Now, patriotism means unquestioningly thinking that whatever your country does is right and everyone else is wrong. Or, more pointedly, whatever your party does is right and everyone else is wrong.

After 9/11, I learned pretty quickly that if I had doubts about the war and the flag (and the atrocities we committed under its name). Because of this, I now have a deeply ambivalent feeling about the flag. What it’s supposed to mean is not what it means any longer. The irony is that the flag the far right likes to wrap themselves up in is a symbol of freedom and democracy–which includes the freedom to criticize your country. There is no flag without this ideal, and yet, many of these so-called patriots can’t seem to grasp this very basic concept. They need to take a civics class or ten, but they’ll never do it.

I’m also discomfited at how Kaepernick’s protest has been twisted from its original meaning. He did it to protest how the cops treat black and brown people, and it was never about the flag. Small OT: I think it’s stupid to have the national anthem before every game. I wish we would do away with it. It’s also gross to force people to have to stand for it for their job. Can you imagine walking into your office every day and having to stand while the national anthem is being sung?

Putting that aside, the notion that athletes should just shut up and play is disturbing. They are not our puppets who are there to dance for our amusement. They are not mindless robots who are programmed to perform and nothing else. They are not action figures we take off the shelf, make them fight each other to entertain us, and then put back on their shelves. I’ve never been comfortable with the notion that just because someone is an entertainer, they shouldn’t be allowed to speak about anything else. Even if I disagree with what they’re saying, they have the right to say it. Secondly, protests are meant to cause discomfort. They are meant to shake up society and force us to really think about the way things are. If a protest isn’t bothering someone, then it’s not really a protest. It’s in the fucking name, for fuck’s sake.

I remember when BLM marches were shutting down streets and places of importance. It happened locally, and I saw Minnesotans in a forum wondering if this was a good thing or not. It was a liberal forum, so you’d think the commenters would be on the side of the protesters. However, many of them were unhappy about the marches, though they were couched in terms of plausible deniability. In essence, they boiled down to, “Racism sucks, but don’t disturb my daily routine or make shopping inconvenient for me.” I see the same thing happening with the football game protests. “Why are you messing with my Sunday entertainment with this bullshit?”

I used to be the Joe Walsh* whisperer, and it was a happy day in the Hong household (for many reasons) when he was defeated by Tammy Duckworth. Naively, I thought I’d never have to hear from him again, but I was so wrong. He pops up periodically on my TL, and there he was like a polyp on the ass of humanity yesterday, weighing in on the Kaepernick situation. Apparently, Stevie Wonder took a knee at a music festival in solidarity for Kaepernick, and Joe Walsh had to add his halfpenny’s worth about it. He called Stevie Wonder another ungrateful black millionaire, and why the hell did I have to see that in my timeline? I mean, who the fuck is Joe Walsh but a one-term, used-to-be-a-deadbeat dad, do-nothing ignoramus who doesn’t know nothing about nothing? The unmitigated gall for him to dare to speak about Stevie Wonder who is a national treasure!

Stevie Wonder will be remembered for decades if not centuries after his death for his phenomenal music. Who is going to remember Joe Walsh even a year after he’s dead except for those who have the misfortune in having to deal with him in the real world? In addition, his use of the word ‘ungrateful’ indicates how he really feels about black entertainers–they only got where they are because white people allowed them to get there. “Look at what we’ve given you! How dare you complain??? You’re so ungrateful.” There is the implicit threat–and not always implicit–that the freedom can just as easily be taken away.

Much of the white nationalism on display also gets at the original sin of this country–some white people truly think this country belongs to them. That’s why the cries of ‘we’re taking our country back’ resonated throughout this president’s campaign. In addition, there is such deep tribalism with some Americans, they take any criticism of any aspect of America very personally.

It’s been interesting to watch the NFL teams close ranks and stand up against this president. Unfortunately, it’s more because of what they see as an attack on them than as a way of supporting Kaepernick. It’s also bothersome that the only reason it’s flared up in the news again is because this president decided he needed to talk about it when he really, really didn’t. Seriously, the best thing this president can do is STFU. I doubt he’ll listen to me, though. When has he ever listened to anyone?



*The asshole representative, not the cool Eagles guy.

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