Until one minute ago, I had no ideas for a blog posting. But within that 60 seconds when I was looking down at my blank computer screen, my neighbor put up a flag. You might think it would be an American flag to celebrate July 4th, but it's not.
Rather than ennumerating almost 4 years of specifics about why the sight of that flag causes me such distress, I'll instead show you the sign on our front window, directly opposite.
While I sit here wishing that the winds from the impending thunderstorm would dislodge the flag and send it sailing into the murky waters of the nearby Nature Preserve, something tells me to stop and breathe. Deep, calming breaths. So I do. (And that something also reminds me that a flag of any kind would not be environmentally friendly to the a–political turtles, snakes, ducks and fish who call the Preserve their home.)
As almost impossible as it is for me to fathom that my sign might be equally distressing to the neighbors, I suppose it is a possibility. Yet we each have the right to display flag and sign, and to allow the other to be displayed.
In one of my favorite movies, The American President, Michael Douglas who plays President Andrew Shepherd, delivers an impassioned speech. The screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing) penned the words, which have remained with me since I first watched the movie in 1995 and several times since.
"America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You've gotta want it bad 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say, 'You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.' You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free."
He's right, it isn't easy. Freedom never is.