This is good. Very good. Every time I see a flag decal and a "support the Troops" ribbon or some such, I am reminded of a theater production in which I was involved, back in about 1980. It was a production of Edgar Lee Master's "Spoon River" poems. I don't know if you're familiar with them, but it's great stuff. Everyone is dead. They are speaking from "beyond." One character, Harry Williams, had this to say:"I WAS just turned twenty-one, And Henry Phipps, the Sunday-school superintendent, Made a speech in Bindle’s Opera House. “The honor of the flag must be upheld,” he said,“Whether it be assailed by a barbarous tribe of Tagalogs Or the greatest power in Europe.” And we cheered and cheered the speech and the flag he waved As he spoke.And I went to the war in spite of my father, And followed the flag till I saw it raised By our camp in a rice field near Manila, And all of us cheered and cheered it.But there were flies and poisonous things; And there was the deadly water, And the cruel heat, And the sickening, putrid food;And the smell of the trench just back of the tents Where the soldiers went to empty themselves; And there were the whores who followed us, full of syphilis; And beastly acts between ourselves or alone, With bullying, hatred, degradation among us, And days of loathing and nights of fear To the hour of the charge through the steaming swamp, Following the flag,Till I fell with a scream, shot through the guts. Now there’s a flag over me in Spoon River. A flag! A flag!Only, in the production, the young actor who played Harry (he was 17 then, and would go on to perform on Broadway and elsewhere) decided to frame those last two words as a question. That poem, and particularly that simple and subtle change of inflection had a profound impact on me and how I look at patriotism. I cannot look at a flag decal or experience any of the cliched rallying chants without thinking of it.