I love my old Ralph Lauren T-shirt. It’s pale yellow, short sleeves, with a small American flag embroidered over the left pocket. Twenty or so years ago my brother-in-law walked out of his house to attend to the barbeque wearing this shirt. I told him I loved it. I went home with the shirt in a used TJ Maxx bag.
After twenty or so years of washing from wearing it to the gym, the beach, to sleep, wherever, the shirt is even more comfortable, pale, and loved. I take it with me on all my vacations because it goes with everything: jeans, white pants, as a short dress (it’s a man’s T-shirt).
This year I took it with me and wanted to wear it for a safe covid walk, with my face mask on, on July 4th. With its flag and all, I thought it would be subtle and sweet, and comfortable. Then before I left the house I caught the news on TV. It’s always on and most of the time I don’t even hear it, but this time I did. A group of people were burning the flag.
It’s not the first time I’ve seen someone burn the flag of course. I’m a child of the sixties. But this time was different. This time I felt intimidated, as if wearing the flag on my washed out yellow shirt was looking for potential trouble, marking me as a right-wing, war-mongering confederate racist! It was the new swastika. My American flag! I actually feared wearing a replica of the flag in the street. Without making this a political rant, let me just say, in general, I appreciate the toppling of some abominable statues and the banners of Black Lives Matter. I support profound changes that must be made. I fight anti-Semitism every day. But the flag? Is displaying and feeling pride for the American flag something I should veil in order to prove my dissatisfaction with the status quo? I don’t know if I’m unusually paranoid, but the lines of these political times leave me a bit more than dazed and confused.