Doctor Science Knows

Saturday, September 06, 2008

What flags are for

From hilzoy's post about Sen. Inhofe's questioning Obama's patriotism. The comments went on to include discussion of who took the flags from Invesco Field. I wrote:

My question for OCSteve (or whomever) is, why is this Democrats-threw-out-flags! story important to you? *Even if it were true* (which IMHO it is not), what would it signify?

What the Republican reaction looks like to me is idol-worship, fetishization. Flags are not particularly *good* symbols for a country: in the case of the US flag, for instance, they're objectively ugly and poorly-designed. They have no nuance, no complexity, no thought, no expression. A flag is not just simple, it's simplistic.

And what flags are for is war. Flags were developed to give soldiers something easily identifiable to follow or rally around -- they *have* to be simple and visually blunt to do that job. The Constitution would be a very poor battlefield token. And soldiers, in turn, need to be trained to react strongly to the flag, to follow it without taking vital time for thinking.

But what Republicans seem to be demanding is for civilians to have that kind of reaction, that kind of unthinking, reflexive response to a simple visual stimulus. This is not just idolatry, this is militarism -- which IMHO is a perversion of human society, whether it leads to Sparta or the Nuremburg Rallies.

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