When I was a teenager there was a word we used for hypocritical before we knew what hypocritical meant: poser.
My friends and I lived and breathed BMX biking. We spent every summer building a BMX park on land the power company ran high-tension transmission lines through. These were the last open tracts of land that remained in West Chester, PA, an affluent suburb of Philadelphia. Because there was little else to do, and because the city would not provide the park for us, we engaged in our own public works project. Hundreds of man-hours, dozens of borrowed lawn tools never returned to the sheds from which they originated. Blood, sweat, and topsoil. We were just a few good ole’ boys carving out a little slice of the American Dream in the summer twilight with the dull buzz of the power company’s transmission lines taught and ominous above our heads.
Every year our improvised BMX park was torn down by whatever enterprise was out to get us that week. Whether that was the father of a neighborhood kid who broke their ankle on our jumps or the power company getting wise to the teenage refugee camp built on their real estate. It was the price we knew we would pay and that was fine with us. We had “borrowed” spade shovels and a dozen able-bodied 14-year-olds so we would rebuild. We knew the score and the math was in our favor. Like the bootleggers of the 1920s we overcame by sheer economics of the situation. “You want to destroy what we’ve made? I wish you the best of luck because supply is low and demand is high. So you can beat us down but I promise that we want this more than you don’t.”
And every September we would return to school with dirty autographed casts on our limbs, torn jeans, and shins tenderized by steel bike pedals. We wore our scars like merit badges. It was something earned in an unforgiving environment and we were proud of what we did but, more importantly, we were proud of the fight we knew was right.
So you can imagine how disconcerting it was when the kids who had been on vacation all summer came to class with their BMX magazines and brand new designer BMX gear. These posers sat in their refinished, air-conditioned basements watching the X Games on big screen TVs all July. Their $500 bike sitting unscratched in the two-car garage. This, to us, was the enemy. They were pretending to be what we earned. This would not be tolerated.
I saw this image yesterday, an American flag on a white T-shirt with the words “Burn my flag…and I’ll piss on your ashes.” This shirt can be purchased at any number of Tea Party related online retail stores.
When I saw this handsome garment pop up on my Facebook news feed, shared and liked by 1,454 people, the first word that came to mind was one that hadn’t passed through my mental thesaurus in years: Poser.
The Flag Code is the U.S. federal law pertaining to the use, display, and disposal of the American flag. The Flag Code also includes any number of specific ceremonial practices including the proper method to carry out the Pledge of Allegiance. There is no penalty for violation of Flag Code. The Supreme Court ruled that enforcement of Flag Code would be in violation of the First Amendment right to Freedom of Speech. Regardless, it’s the official user’s manual for those who take our flag seriously.
It’s also chalk full of fascinating facts. Did you know that hanging the flag upside down is against the law except in cases of distress or extreme danger? Keep that in mind the next time you’re at a car dealership under siege by Al Qaeda.
The Flag Code states, “(I) The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever” and “(G) The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.” So when these “Tea Party Patriots” decide to sell flag bumper stickers, flag T-shirts, flag hats, flag socks, and flag Snuggies, they are violating Flag Code law and disrespecting the very flag they’re apparently so concerned about protecting.
There is overwhelming irony in a poorly Photoshopped T-shirt attacking people who violate Flag Code and in doing so, violates Flag Code. To make such a shockingly unambiguous implication that if you mess with the American flag, the T-shirt owner will kill you and burn your body. This level of ignorance is almost awe-inspiring.
“(D) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white, and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker’s desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in general.”
There is one exception for the above article, and that’s for the caskets of the men and women who serve, live, breath and die for the United States of America. When some Tea Party super fan wears this shirt, filling out a lawn chair for their weekend Tea Party protest on the National Mall, they are doing a disservice to the people who fight for this country, the people who protect this country, and to the people who took the time to pay attention in 8th grade American History.
At least the protestors burning the flag know what it means. They took the time to give a shit.
What to do if you’ve already purchased this shirt: “(K) The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”
Next time, take some time to think about what that flag means and the reasons why Americans wave it, salute it, or burn it. Also, just in terms of aesthetics, wearing an American flag slogan shirt is like wearing a U2 T-shirt to a U2 concert. Don’t be that guy.
Next summer, once again, we’ll be out in the field trying to build something great. The power company will try to stop us but the math will be in our favor. “You want to destroy what we’ve made? I wish you the best of luck because supply is low and demand is high. So you can beat us down but I promise that we want this more than you don’t.”
You wear the BMX gear, but can you ride?
- You: Court: School can ban American flag shirts on Cinco de Mayo (washingtonpost.com)
- When wearing a U.S. flag T-shirt is wrong (cnn.com)
- Ericka Andersen: Will You Raise Your Flag With Us? (huffingtonpost.com)