Monday, August 26, 2013

More on the Gigantic Flag Mural

I’ve been thinking about why that monster flag mural has me obsessed.

I think I’ve got it: The US has the same problem India has.  A caste system.  We have a warrior caste.  Each generation makes sure there is a war for the next generation, so the warrior caste can continue.  They believe that being a warrior is a good profession, deserving a place of honor in our society.  They believe that if they are worthy they will come home alive, to help train the next generation.  But if it falls their lot to die on the field of battle, they will be honored.

I am not from the warrior caste.  My grandfather, father and brother were not soldiers.  My husband and his father and grandfather were not soldiers.  I have no sons and my daughters have no interest in being soldiers.

When I look at that flag, I see the Vietnam war protests all over again.  The US had no quarrel with Vietnam.  There was no reason for that war – except perpetuation of the warrior caste.  Our current wars are the same.  The US has no quarrel with Iraq or Afghanistan.  The suicide bombers were from Saudi Arabia.  The warrior caste seems to be shrinking.  Fewer soldiers are called to battle in this generation than in my generation.

I can accept that there is a warrior caste.  But that flag means something more.  The veterans’ park near my home (all 16 feet by 35 feet of it) has one mock tombstone for Private Ward.  The mural of the gigantic flag honors his death – not his life.  By honoring his death, it sends a message to future warriors that their deaths will be honored.  Not their lives.

I would prefer a triptych of Private Ward’s life. Perhaps a childhood scene, then a picture of him playing a sport, or going to his prom, and finally him in his camo uniform in Vietnam where he died.  I’m aware that showing his life, cut short, is an anti-war statement.  And I’m aware that the current overpowering flag painted above his mock tombstone is a pro-war statement.

Private Ward’s sister loved him.  She has memories of him growing up with her.  That is the person I believe deserves honor.  Not the abstract dead soldier with a tombstone bearing his name.  But this is a cultural divide.  The warrior caste calling to its own vs the rest of us, hoping to prevent wars and the pain they cause.

That flag mural claims territory on my block, just as congress claims territory in my taxes for wars I do not want.  I do not know if I have the right to tell a whole caste that I do not value their role.  In the Hindu religion, when Arjuna said, “I do not want to go to war. I do not want to kill my cousins,” Krishna said “You were born a warrior. Is there something wrong with that profession?”

A huge part of me wants to say, “Yes, there is something wrong with bringing up your children to be soldiers. There is something wrong with putting our country through wars every generation, so your caste can go to battle.”  But when I put it that way, I’m not sure I have the right to say that.  Members of other castes don’t like education, and I am a member of the educated caste.  They don’t like paying for the schools that create people like me.

So, when I look at that horrific flag and think about the cult of death that it represents, I see a quandary, and I have no answers.

Friday, August 23, 2013

More on the Giant Flag Mural

A friend suggested I just paint something nice over that monster flag on the corner.  I have to admit I’m tempted.  But it’s not worth going to jail for.

Mural Arts gets to put up the flag without going through the neighborhood approval process  because they are in league with the city government and if the government does it, then it can’t be a crime, by some sort of city definition.  But if I do it, then I’m defacing private property.

So, I asked myself, what could I do with that flag that would both honor the flag and honor my beliefs.  There has to be a way to make something good out of this gigantic piece of clip art.  This park is 16 feet wide and about 35 feet long.  The flag is painted on the house at the back of the park.  The flag is about 30 feet long, and nearly the full height of the 3 story house.

But there is space under the flag.  Right now it is painted light blue.  On the right side are some plaques honoring local veterans.  On the front right side of the park is a mock tombstone for a neighbor who died in Vietnam.  The left side of the wall below the flag is blank.

My thought is that the flag represents the Constitution.  And the Constitution defends freedom of speech and the right to redress grievances.  I have asked the Mural Arts folks to put up a bulletin board so neighbors can put up banners and posters about things they care about, without damaging the paint.

I want to post one that says Free Chelsea Manning.  

So far, I have no response from Mural Arts.   

Yes, I am aware that the small group of men who commandeered that flag project will be angry if it becomes a free speech zone.   Patriotism doesn’t mean Constitution to them.  I’m not sure what it means to them.  But whatever it means, it results in wars every generation so that men can do some sort of male-bonding about war.

They are free to make posters and banners, too.  

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Hey, Lady

Hey, lady.
I didn’t know that was an insult.
Because I didn’t know, I messed up not only the conversation, but any chance of having my opinion taken seriously.

Mural Arts is supposed to have neighborhood meetings where people have discussions and agree about murals that will be painted on local walls.  In my neighborhood, a flyer went out.  We’re going to have a flag.  A clip art flag. Nothing else. Nothing to say anything about the neighborhood or the veterans who have served and died from our neighborhood.  

The park is named for Private Ward who died in Vietnam.  Nothing about him or his life. Just a flag.  I tried to explain that a mural can be so much more.

One of the WWII veterans who actually sits at the park sometimes, interrupted me.  “Hey, lady. I wanna flag!”  Frank knows my name. When Frank ran a store, we ran a trash can across the street to collect trash from his customers. I tried to explain that the park already has several large flags. A mural can tell a story.  Nobody cared.

Afterwards, Paul explained to me that I had addressed the wrong part of Frank’s comment. The proper answer was, “I don’t deserve that insult. You don’t “hey lady” me. I’ve been here 21 years and I pick up your trash every morning.”

The flag was so badly painted, that I called Mural Arts.  I emailed them a photo. They said I was the only one complaining.  But they did assign a different artist to finish the painting, and at least the colors no longer run down the wall.  Later, the woman I spoke with admitted they didn’t follow procedure. But they don’t have the money to do it over.  So, in 5 or 10 years when this mural needs to be repainted, she’ll try to have a neighborhood meeting.

I’m no lady.   She’ll have that meeting. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Thoughts on Gone With the Wind

I’m reading Gone With the Wind, and my most salient thought is that the US should have let the South secede.

That war was expensive in terms of lives and dollars, and proved nothing.

The war was not fought to end slavery. It was fought to keep cotton affordable for Northern clothing factories.  If those factory owners had looked at the cost of the war and compared it to the cost of cotton, they’d have happily paid more for the cotton.

It’s the same story today.  The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost a fortune in lives and dollars, and they’ve done nothing to keep oil affordable.

The South would have learned the economic failure of slavery soon enough. And without the war, they could not have resented the North for destroying their lifestyle and their land.

Plus we would not have the Tea Party / pseudo-Republicans now trying to push pre civil-war Southern philosophies on a country that has new and complex problems that cannot be solved by going back to a world run by a few wealthy plantation owners, who currently call themselves “job creators.”  These Tea Party folks even want to go back to the pre civil-war problems of no birth control and no unions.  If plantations and slavery had been allowed to self-destruct, nobody would be idealizing that lifestyle today.

I know – there are no time machines – and GWTW does play with facts in order to make a better story. For example, Governor Bulloch was white, not black. But I get the sense that the basic philosophies and attitudes are presented fairly. This war killed more Americans than any other war. We’re still fighting it.  

The Tea Party may as well be called The Confederates. War doesn’t prove who is right – just which side has the more successful army. I hope it’s not too late to resolve the issues of that war without fighting another one. The problems of that era and that war are not gone with the wind.