The Patriot's Act
What's more American than
As a young boy, I loved the American flag. I'd lead my younger
sisters in patriotic parades up and down the sidewalk, waving
the flag, blowing a whistle and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance
over and over until my sisters begged me to let them go back
to their Easy-Bake Oven.
singing the national anthem. I won an essay contest on “What
the Flag Means to Me." I decorated my bicycle with little
American flags for a Fourth of July parade and won a prize
for that too. I became an Eagle Scout and proudly promised
to do my duty to God and my country. And every year I asked
to be the one who planted the flag on the grave of my uncle,
a paratrooper who was killed in World War II. I was taught
to admire his sacrifice, and I hoped to grow up and do my
part, as he had, to keep us free.
high school, things changed. Nine boys from my school came
back home from Vietnam in boxes. Draped over each coffin was
the American flag. I knew that they also had made a sacrifice.
sacrifice wasn't for their country: They were sent to die
by men who lied to them. Those men - presidents, senators,
government officials - wrapped themselves in the flag too,
hoping that their lies would never be questioned, never be
themselves in the very flag that was placed on the coffins
of my friends and neighbors. I stopped singing the national
anthem at football games, and I stopped putting out the flag.
now I never should have stopped.
For too long now we have abandoned our flag to those who see
it as a symbol of war and dominance, as a way to crush dissent
at home. Flags are flying from the back of SUVs, rising high
above car dealerships, plastering the windows of businesses
and adorning paper bags from fast-food restaurants. But these
flags are intended to send a message: "You're either
with us or you're against us," "Bring it on!"
or "Watch what you say, watch what you do."
who absconded with our flag now use it as a weapon against
those who question America's course. They remind me of that
famous 1976 photo of an anti-busing demonstrator in Boston
thrusting a large American flag on a pole into the stomach
of the first black man he encountered. These so-called patriots
hold the flag tightly in their grip and, in a threatening
pose, demand that no one asks questions. Those who speak out
find themselves shunned at work, harassed at school, booed
off Oscar stages. The flag has become a muzzle, a piece of
cloth stuffed into the mouths of those who dare to ask questions.
it's time for those of us who love this country and everything
it should stand for - to reclaim our flag from those who would
use it to crush rights and freedoms, both here at home and
overseas. We need to redefine what it means to be a proud
are one of those who love what President Bush has done for
this country and believe you must blindly follow the president
to deserve to fly the flag, you should ask yourself some difficult
questions about just how proud you are of the America we now
proud that one in six children lives in poverty in America?
proud that 40 million adult Americans are functional illiterates?
proud that the bulk of the jobs being created these days are
low- and minimum wage jobs?
proud of asking your fellow Americans to live on $5.15 an
proud that, according to a National Geographic Society survey,
85% of young adult Americans cannot find Iraq on the map (and
11% cannot find the United States!)?
proud that the rest of the world, which poured out its heart
to us after Sept. 11, now looks at us with disdain and disgust?
proud that nearly 3 billion people on this planet do not have
access to clean drinking water when we have the resources
and technology to remedy this immediately?
proud of the fact that our president sent our soldiers off
to a war that had nothing to do with the self-defence of this
things represent what it means to be an American these days
- and I am an American - should I hang my head in shame? No.
Instead, I intend to perform what I believe is my patriotic
duty. I can't think of a more American thing to do than raise
questions - and demand truthful answers - when our leader
wants to send our sons and daughters off to die in a war.
don't do that - the bare minimum - for those who offer to
defend our country, then we have failed them and ourselves.
They offer to die for us, if necessary, so that we can be
free. All they ask in return is that we never send them into
harm's way unless it is absolutely necessary. And with this
war, we have broken faith with our troops by sending them
off to be killed and maimed for wrong and immoral reasons.
the true state of disgrace we are living in. I hope we can
make it up someday to these brave kids (and older men and
women in our reserves and National Guard). They deserve an
apology, they deserve our thanks - and a raise - and they
deserve a big parade with lots of flags.
like to lead that parade, carrying the largest flag. And I
would like the country to proclaim that never again will a
war be fought unless it is our last resort.
create a world in which, when people see the Stars and Stripes,
they will think of us as the people who brought peace to
who brought good-paying jobs to all citizens and clean water
for the world to drink. In anticipation of that day, I am
putting my flag out today, with hope and with pride.
Moore's latest documentary film is "Fahrenheit 9/11."
This article was first published in the Los Angeles Times