Distressed

upside-down-flag2
"We cannot possess what we cannot share."

I humbly post this brief explanation. You might have noticed that I've hung an American flag upside down from my deck. No, I didn't accidentally string it backwards. This was a willing, willful act, one intended to express the extreme distress my house, my home, and my country currently experience. When I read in the paper that border agents play a cruel bait and switch with the children of those seeking asylum in my country by explaining that they're just taking the child for a bath, only later taunting the helpless parent by saying that they might never see their child again. This report distresses me.

Illegally crossing the border for the purposes of seeking asylum never was a felony. It would until recently garner an infraction about as damning as a speeding ticket, a misdemeanor easily dispatched with a couple of hundred dollars, a few days in jail, and/or a ride back from whence you came.
Imagine a State Patrol officer absconding with your kids after pulling you over for a traffic infraction, explaining that the law does not allow the incarceration of children with their charged parent, necessitating shipping them off to foster care or, more likely, a kid kennel in a repurposed Walmart, until the courts rule on the charges. The courts seem to be backed up. This clearing process might take months. You might not ever see your children again. This behavior fully qualifies as tyranny.

Who's to blame? Well, at Nuremberg, we learned that simply following orders doesn't exonerate. The loyal follower has choices other than following unjust commands, though those choices might bring with them grave consequences. The officer refusing to arrest could very well lose that job. They, too, might be charged with a misdemeanor, or even a felony, much as those who founded this country dedicated to the inherent rights of all people were charged for their insubordinate behavior. Anyone capable of disobeying an unjust command assumes culpability by obeying. Of course the corrupted Federal administration holds ultimate responsibility, but so does everyone complying with their unjust directives.

No, we are not being inundated with criminals slinking across our borders. That's a fake news story promoted by our President who, since taking office, seems to have rejected any notion that he need ever tell the truth about anything. He's more than an embarrassment now. He's a danger to the very freedoms he swore to uphold. He runs a cadre of storm troopers who swoop into towns and businesses seeking anyone who might have at some time in their past committed a misdemeanor, arresting those they suspect, and stealing their children away from their care. They could, as justifiably, swoop into your town or your business and sweep you away for driving like a maniac on the freeway. This practice is monstrous, and I cannot stand for it.

I feel complicit. I am an American citizen. These willfully wrongful acts are carried out in my name, too. So, I faced a dilemma. Should I stand silent as these practices humiliate the integrity of my home? Does my silence or the apparent impotence of my voice further encourage this madness? How might I find voice? I've chosen, after inexpressibly deep consideration, to express my distress with the American flag that was draped over my WWI veteran grandfather's casket nearly fifty years ago. Since then, it has sat properly folded on a high shelf. This morning, it stands once again as a symbol of the country it was adopted to represent, a country currently suffering deep distress, and no longer simply silently sitting on some shelf. My grandfather would have approved.

I sincerely apologize to any neighbor or passerby who might mistake my flag for a symbol of something other than the dire distress I intend for it to represent. This particular flag represents the deep respect I hold for the rule of justice for all, not just those fortunate enough to have been born here. Few of my forebears were born here and each was denigrated in their turn, cursed by those already privileged and perhaps terrified of losing their privileges. Jefferson said, "Phooey!" He believed, as our other founders believed, that freedom and justice offer infinite privilege, with plenty to share. We have not always been a fair people, but the arc of history is still struggling to achieve the equality our founders insisted upon believing in. We dare not forget.

I imagine that most of my neighbors might, in the following weeks, likewise hoist a flag to acknowledge their personal and our collective distress. That those like me, who have been suffering in ultimately insufferable silence, might also make the personally painful choice to fully and publicly acknowledge their distress in hopes that together, we might find some way to end the petty and self-destructive tyrannies inflicted upon our fellows in our humble name. We cannot possess what we cannot share.

We remain fortunate to inhabit a country whose laws encourage this sort of dissent. The peaceful expression of dissenting opinions serves as the backbone of our society, whomever holds the formal power. Our flag is just a symbol, an outward sign of more meaningful inward states. We cannot stand for justice while denying others justice. We cannot insist upon our share without granting others' their rightful share. May my internal distress, outwardly expressed, serve to remind us all what we originally held to be self-evident, needing no outward sign at all.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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