flagging personal patriotism
i'll carefully raise a flag this tuesday and display it in front of my house. in a statistical sense, at least, this constitutes deviant behavior within several of my salient reference groups. surely few other american sociologists will be flying the stars and stripes this year.
events strike each of us differently, but my decision to display the flag got a little easier after the salim ahmed hamdan decision came down this week. like many americans who cherish civil rights and civil liberties, my personal patriotism has been, errrr, flagging of late. i see the decision -- and an independent judiciary more generally -- as a strong check on the sort of tyranny to which jefferson and madison (remember this one?) devoted so much attention.
i was never much for flag-waving chest-thumping nationalism, but have always appreciated the nation's founding principles -- and the truth and beauty of those grand documents. this is usually the point at which friends chide me for my naiveté and others scold me for my ignorance or complicity in all manner of ugly american atrocities.
as my nation's world image tanks and each day seems to bring a new assault on science and decency, it is tempting to cede inspirational symbols such as flags to the scoundrels and despots. i probably fly the flag for quite different reasons than the ex-marine across the street, but it belongs to both of us (that said, if you're planning to burn one, i wouldn't do it in his yard). for my part, i'm glad to live in a place where my occasionally intemperate speech and behavior enjoy some degree of constitutional protection. more to the point, i'm glad to raise my kids in a place where their occasionally intemperate speech and behavior enjoy some degree of constitutional protection.
as a sociologist, i know that my race and gender have much to do with the effectiveness of such protections in practice. i've never been an activist, though i'm sure my juvenile delinquency, teenage "stop the draft" activities (alongside a then-rassler and budding politician), and expert testimony against the first family would be considered impermissibly subversive in other periods and places. here, the state pays me to do research and writing that often challenge those in power and i make a good living as a state-employed knowledge worker. that's why i'm only half-kidding when i ask: is this a great country, or what?