Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher who writes about various subjects, including education and creative writing.
The time finally came. The grand and glorious flag inched up the tallest flagpole in town. Council members gathered at the dedication. Also, in attendance were members of the group that made all this possible. The members of the Committee to Salute Patriotism stood by with swelling hearts and beaming stares.
They weren’t alone. Citizens of the town flocked to the site. They marveled at the massive flag going up the most prominent pole for miles around. They inherited something that, when unfurled, confirmed their blind devotion to the country they loved so dearly.
Yet, with all the publicity and fanfare, nobody paid much attention to the location of the pole nor how much cloth really made up that grand and glorious flag. Whether through a myopic view or through sheer denialism, nobody realized that the pole was too close to the busy overpass for the 1st Freeway. Well, not everybody.
“The flag is too big,” he kept saying.
One person in the crowd of prominent citizens of the town wasn’t cracking a smile. Not only that, his nervous eyes darted to the flag and to the overpass. He was worried, and with good reason. This was a hazard. The flag when unfurled could easily flow into the oncoming traffic.
Worst yet, the Safety Inspector tried to warn the city council and mayor, as well as the Committee to Salute Patriotism, only to be repeatedly silenced on the matter. That was not all. He was berated, threatened with termination of his position, and nearly sued.
“The flag is too big,” he kept saying.
“You don’t love this country!” the speaker for the committee often stated in heated city council meetings.
“That flag will kill someone,” he replied.
“There you go again, denigrate the flag! And when you do so, you are denigrating this town, state, this country. Where is your love for this country?”
Such banter happened throughout the year before the flag’s eventual approval. Through it all, the Safety Inspector felt beaten down, leaving him haggard and yearning for something to end the debates. Worst yet, his health declined, his approval sank, and his voice messages and email were inundated with death threats. Eventually, he threw in the towel. It’s not easy being marked the enemy in the town he loved and served. Thus, he took back his pleas and warnings and reluctantly gave his blessing for the great flag and pole.
But why fret over such a small thing? After all, the Committee to Salute Patriotism won, and established the need for the biggest flag and the biggest pole for anyone to see, including those on 1st Freeway.
Now, the time was at hand. Twenty strong men hoisted the giant flag. They grunted and groaned as the unfurled, seemingly gelatinous flag slowly raised to prominence. All the while, the members of the Committee of Salute Patriotism placed their hands on their hearts and hummed the national anthem. Soon, everyone in the crowd did the same. No less patriotic, the Safety Inspector, did the same…even if his concern was with the pending disaster he knew would come.
Oh, my,” the woman in the crowd said. “This is going to happen. It really is going to happen. We’ll see it in all its glory!”
The flag reached the top. The pledges and singing continued and grew louder from the crowd as the men who helped hoist it bent over and caught their breath.
The crowd fell silent upon seeing the unfurled flag high above the town. The marked silence was enough to allow the sound of cars zooming by on the overpass to be heard loud and clear.
“Will we get to see it in all its glory?” A woman in the crowd whispered to her husband.
“Don’t know,” he replied. “I did hear on the TV news something about winds picking up."
The Safety Inspector, on the other hand, eyed the flag and the overpass. So far, so good, he thought. Let’s keep this a windless day as long as …
Mother Nature interrupted. It started as a light breeze, but it was enough to move the flag a bit. There were a few gasps and astonishments from the crowd. The breeze strengthen. It didn’t completely unfurl the flag. Still, it rekindled the crowd’s attention.
“Oh, my,” the woman in the crowd said. “This is going to happen. It really is going to happen. We’ll see it in all its glory!”
“God bless this country!” her husband added.
“See!” he added when he saw the Safety Inspector. “That grand old flag will never let you unpatriotic doubters win! We, country lovers win!”
The Safety Inspector glanced at him and then turned his attention to the flag. Why waste his time with a heckler? At that moment, however, his heart pounded. It was not out of joy and love of country; it was for a prophesy he wished wasn’t going to happened. However, as the wind gained power and the flag unfurled and came closer to the overpass. His hope that he was wrong slowly blew away in the wind.
Finally, the gust of all gusts came around. The flag unfurled and waved mightily above the town. Its ends whipped and slashed the air with a dignified whish. It also encroached onto the overpass of 1st Freeway.
And disaster struck. The flag whipped into a mini-van, shortly blinding the driver and cracking the windshield. Startled, the driver lost control and the car and smashed into the railings. The driver in the SUV behind him didn’t have time to react. He plowed into the mini-van. An explosion ensued as other drivers drove their vehicles into the two cars. The pile-up and flames grew… and the flag’s edge tore and burned.
A collective gasp came from the crowd.
“Oh my god!” one of them said. “the flag is on fire. We must save it!”
Thus, the burly men that hoisted the flag were in a hurry to lower it before all was gone. The crowd, include the Committee to Salute Patriotism ran to put out the flame once it came to earth. The Safety Inspector jumped into action, too. He pleaded with fire fighters and police officers in attendance to go to the overpass and stop the carnage up there. However, as they began to rush, the rest of the city council and the committee screamed for them to help put out the fire.
Cars burned, people lay dying or injured. But, the day was saved by the gallant crowd that came to the aide of the damaged flag and saved it from total damage.
"No!” The committee’s representative piped in. “The flag and flagpole stays! This is its righteous place in the town! Removing to some far off place outside town is unacceptable!”
A few days after this, the city council called for a special meeting. These were grim times. Many members came to realization that the Safety Inspector was correct (some, not all); the flag was, indeed, too close to the 1st Freeway.
This meeting was The Safety Inspector’s chance to push his concerns.
“It’s obvious what he need to do,” he said to the members of city council in a packed meeting. “We need to find a new place for this glorious flag. I suggest on the other side of town.”
His thinking was that it would be in a place far from the freeway and in an open field. There, a park can spring up around it and become a place for many to gather and gaze upon the amazing flag. There, the Committee to Salute Patriotism could hold endless ceremonies and events in the name of this flag. The problem with that?
“No!” The committee’s representative piped in. “The flag and flagpole stays! This is its righteous place in the town! Removing to some far off place outside town is unacceptable and it goes against everything that's right and holy about our beloved country!”
The Safety Inspector tried to give them the obvious; the current place for the flag was why too dangerous. Instead, he was interrupted by hisses and boos, as well as a few “traitors” and “why do you hate this country?” Once again, the audience in that meeting turned against him.
The slew of derision became a din that drowned out the Safety Inspector’s plea. And, just when this couldn’t get any worse, the Committee to Salute Patriotism’s representative gave his thoughts: “I say we move the freeway!”
The council members and the Safety Inspector, as well as the crowd and other committee members fell silent. After all that happened, after the accident that resulted in serious injuries, and deaths. And, after the flag was severely damaged, the committee didn’t want to move it away from pending danger?
“The flag must stand strong…just like us. Removing the flag is a sign that we are weak!” the committee member continued.
The room exploded into applause and cheers. Everybody was up out of their seats, even the Safety Inspector (but he was not celebrating). He was shocked. He peered at them dumbfounded. How were they going to move a freeway, he thought.
Then, the council sealed the deal. Immediately, they voted and agreed that they’d have the overpass of the 1st Freeway “moved” several feet away for the flag – after being repaired – could fly freely, high above the town for all to see.
Patriotism, in the guise of the flag won that day.
© 2021 Dean Traylor
Jo Miller from Tennessee on October 18, 2021:
Lovely article, but the comments made me feel a little weary early this morning.
Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on October 07, 2021:
I enjoy the interesting read. Thanks.
Dean Traylor (author) from Southern California/Spokane, Washington (long story) on October 06, 2021:
Nope...blind patriotism clouds common sense.
WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on October 06, 2021:
The message seems to be that American patriotism is bad and our flag is a symbol of bad American patriotism.
Misbah Sheikh from The World of Rebels. on October 06, 2021:
I enjoyed reading your hub. Thank you so much for sharing your creativity.
"True patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else." ~ Clarence Darrow.
Have a great day.
Blessings and Peace!