I went out to dinner the other night, to a local place, a Portuguese-American social club with a restaurant. Servings are large, prices are low, and the dining room is luxuriously paneled in circa 1970 fake pine. It’s a good place. I ordered the baked stuffed shrimp and a Budweiser. I don’t drink a lot of Budweiser, but I’ve always liked it with seafood.
The can of Bud they brought me was, as usual, annoyingly emblazoned with the word “America,” and a verse from the National Anthem. I think it also said, “E Pluribus Unum,” which I think means, “Made by a foreign company.”
I’m a patriotic American. I take my hat off for the Pledge of Allegiance, and when the flag passes. As a reporter who has covered government for more than 30 years, I’ve stood for the Pledge of Allegiance thousands of times, because that’s how they start things like city council meetings. I pay my taxes, I don’t get arrested, and I keep up the house I own. I don’t have children with whom I do not live, and no court has ever had to straighten out my life for me. I have never cashed an unemployment check, and I have never been on public assistance.
I have learned, here in 2017 America, that this is not good enough. I do not fly the flag from my front porch. I do not have an American flag bumper sticker with the message “These Colors Don’t Run.” I do not own one piece of American flag-themed clothing. I was raised to believe that it’s disrespectful to wear the flag as clothing. Because I don’t do these things, some people say I’m not a “real American.”
I’ve read that Budweiser intends the can to be a temporary thing, and I hope it is because it’s disrespectful and stupid. You don’t put the American flag on a beer can. You put it in our heart.
I guess it’s a small thing to be angry about, but in a much bigger sense, I am pukingly sick and tired of 2017’s endless worship of the flag and anyone who wears a uniform.
Cops shoot someone? They’re “America’s heroes,” and they “put their lives on the line every day.” As a reporter, I’ve seen cops do some heroic things, but I don’t think that means they can shoot anyone they want.
If a soldier in uniform gets slow service in a Denny’s, it’s all over Facebook, and people post things like, “Respect our brave soldier who fights for our freedom.” If a black civilian with his baseball cap on backwards and saggy pants gets the same slow service in the same Denny’s, he’s told he shouldn’t “dress like a thug.”
I’m sick of it all, sick of the mindless all-slogans, no-brains patriotism that can’t tell the difference between the flag and civil rights, between freedom and a uniform, between what’s on your bumper and what’s in your heart, between what you say and what you do.
Most insultingly, the Belgians who own Budweiser know I’m an American, so they figure I’ll drink, eat or vote for anything that says, “American” on the front, no matter what’s inside.
And why shouldn’t they? That’s how we elected this president.