Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin
queerbychoice

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Flags and Mourning

I finally finished updating QueerByChoice.com to comment on the whole peace/war/terrorism thing. In a way it feels vaguely inappropriate to be turning a large piece of the Queer by Choice index page into a pacifist page; but it feels even more inappropriate to ignore the issue, so I spoke up. Though unfortunately since I still haven't found an at all decent replacement for my FrontPage Express, it took me ages to achieve this latest bit of coding. I have about 4 layers of tables within tables within tables and so all the different coding marks became distinctly confusing.

You know, my whole status as a queer activist is disturbingly shaken up now that it seems the aspect of my identity that I'm most likely to be murdered for is not queerness after all but Americanness. And I didn't even much choose to be an American - I was just born with it, and haven't found it economically appealing to move anywhere else since I have a job here and I don't have a job in any other country.

It's a terrible thing to die for a cause you hold dear, yet somehow it's even more terrible to die for an aspect of your identity that you've never been terribly proud of in the first place. Maybe that's why all these annoying people have started preaching blind fanatical patriotism and 24-hour-a-day flag-waving - because if they're going to be murdered for being Americans, it feels more comfortable to them if they can at least convince themselves they're dying for something important and meaningful about who they really are.

Not all flags annoy me. I actually do find it moving and meaningful to pass by a flag flying at half mast. I think flying a flag at half-mast is a beautifully mournful expression of real grief. But it's the other flags that bother me. The plastic ones taped to windowpanes, decorating grocery store checkout stands, flying from car TV antennas. Those flags aren't at half-mast, and they don't feel like expressions of grief to me - they're just recycled 4th of July decorations, and they haven't lost their celebratory look. I honestly find them offensive. The people who died didn't die wrapped in flags, and they wouldn't necessarily have identified with the flag or supported such expressions of patriotism. I feel they should be mourned as individuals, with the usual colors we wear to mourn individuals. To mourn in red white and blue obscures their personhood and pretends that the fact of being American was the most or only important part of who they really were as people and how they saw themselves - which is precisely the lie that the terrorists must have believed in order to feel justified in murdering them. We should be refuting this lie, not endorsing it.
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