America's Flag: A Symbol of Ideals; Bush's Flag: a Symbol of Lies, Myths, and Buzz Phrases
By Cheryl Seal
The entire Bush administration has been built on a foundation of lies, myths, buzz phrases and "buzz images." First, of course, we have Bush himself, who presented himself as a folksy cowboy sorta guy who just can't wait to retreat to the ole family ranch. This is a total myth - Bush's ranch was built in the five months before the 2000 election, and the paint hadn't even dried by Nov. 5. Bush owns no cattle (the stock you see in photos belongs to a tenant-manager), wouldn't know a sagebush from a tumbleweed and can't even ride. In fact, Vincente Fox, buying Bush's phony cowboy story, presented him with a fancy Spanish saddle. Instead of admitting he couldn't ride, Bush sent the saddle on tour around the country: the President's saddle, implying of course, that he could ride and reinforcing the "cowboy rancher" myth.
Buzz phrases - the favorite weapon and refuge of the mindless - have been a Bush mainstay. "How many times can you count votes?" Remember that one? That grossly misleading innuendo (along with "Bush won, get over it!") helped whip up the righteous wrath of a very small but "in your face" battalion of rightwingers, who cheered Bush on,chanting these buzz phrases, as he stole the election. This is the same herd of Bush lemmings that blames every Bush misstep on the "liberal media" (a major rightwing myth and buzz phrase). The reality of what was happening in Florida - that the BIGGEST issue was not recounting votes, but trying to get a count of votes that had NEVER been tallied or those which had yet to be hand-counted - was completely drowned out by the droning of Bushy slogans. But once a buzz phrase sets in with the mindless masses, it's set in their brains like cement - cement in solid rock.
What is a real hoot (if you have a dark, somewhat warped sense of humor) is that most of Bush's stock buzz phrases are ripped off. "No child left behind," for example, was stolen from the Children's Defense Fund http://www.practicalradical.net/cs_children.html. Many connected with the fund were outraged, because Bush policies leave so many children left behind, and undefended (one in three now have no medical insurance coverage). So when you consider the basic total fabrication of the man himself, it should come as no shock that everything this plastic president has done connected to the 9/11 attacks has been an outrageous, insulting mishmash of hype, myth, lies, buzzphrases and buzz images.
First of all, there's the buzz image: Bush at ground zero. No one seemed to recall, once Bush made his "heroic stand" next to the rubble, that he hadn't managed to drag his sorry butt down to the scene of the tragedy until nearly a week after the fact. And, what I suspect really motivated him to slink out of the bunker for a day or two was not compassion and courage, but opportunism. How could any corporate puppet worth their salt pass up a great photo op like that?. He had seen the famous photo of the firefighters - real life heroes - raising a flag over the rubble and knew that Thomas Franklin's powerful image was one for the history books and already wildly popular with a grieving America in need of heroes. So, Bush sees his chance to try to slide into history and America's heart on the dust-covered coattails of the real heroes. Check out the Franklin photo of the firefighters: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/americas/1803899.stm Now check out the Bush rip off versions: http://www.msnbc.com/news/1307772.jpg and http://teacher.scholastic.com/newszone/specialreports/images/bush.jpg
When I put them side by side, I was suddenly struck by how insultingly manipulative, how shallow, and how opportunistic this man truly is.
Once his "new image" was cemented in the minds of the masses, Bush launched into a new buzzphrase/myth-concocting campaign with a vengeance. Some of the stuff so outrageous that one wonders how even a grieving America could have swallowed it. "You're with us or against us," "We're gonna bring Osama Bin Laden back dead or alive," "Axis of Evil," Evildoers," etc. ad nauseum. To gain his political ends, Bush turned Osama Bin Laden into a monster of mythical proportions, who was not only responsible for every bad thing that had ever happened to America, but every bad thing could possibly ever happen again!- a bogeyman hiding in every shadow, cave, or airport alcove on Earth. The frenzy of fear and jingoism that ensued was thoroughly exploited by Bush to ram through his fascist political agenda - all packaged in buzzphrases, of course. Thus the total trashing of the Constitution became "The Patriot Act." The new gestapo became "Homeland Security." And anything that he wanted to do that was in violation of everything America is supposed to stand for became "In the name of national security."
One of the saddest examples of Bush myth-building at the expense of America's dignity is the "ground zero flag" myth. One of Bush's favorite buzz images, of course is the American flag - ideally being waved enthusiastically by people ready to send their sons and daughters off to die in the desert for oil. The White House propaganda machine seized on the stirred emotions of Americans following 9/11 to whip up a flag frenzy. So, for some months after WTC, the public was encouraged to believe that the flag raised above the rubble in the Franklin photo had been rescued from the ruins - the "tattered flag" that was still there. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/americas/1803899.stm. The "ground zero flag" became THE Bush patriotic fervor symbol. It was send on tour across America http://www.msnbc.com/local/kttc/M207514.asp, it was sent to Afghanistan http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/americas/1678990.stm, to the Olympics http://www.rnw.nl/hotspots/html/us020207.html, flown on a Navy ship http://www.atlanticfleet.navy.mil/tr-flaghome.htm, and, as a total slap in the face of America's dignity, put on the GOP campaign circuit http://www.peterroskam.com/flag_tour_news.html.
But, after several months, as people started to recover from the 9/11 trauma, questions started being asked. Such as: Why are the flags in different photos all different sizes? Compare this Afghanistan ground zero flag photo http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/americas/1678990.stm to the one in the famous firefighter photo http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/americas/1803899.stm. Why, it must be a Bush MIRACLE! The flag sent to Afghanistan grew overnight to a size large enough to allow all sorts of belligerent war slogans to be written into it! ("It's Payback time!" "May the last breath you take be spent looking at this flag!" etc.). But if you read the fine print in the article, you see it was "a flag from Ground Zero," not THE flag. But Bush and the propagandists know that the public rarely reads the fine print. So they have shamelessly implied that all of the flags carted around the country have been THE ground zero flag and that's enough.
The whole story behind the heroic raising of the firefighter's flag was not revealed by the corporate media in their early post-9/11 propaganda feeding frenzy, either. This flag, which was NOT the one allegedly dragged from the rubble, was commandeered by one of the firefighters from a yacht moored near the WTC http://www.groundzerospirit.org/about.html. And, as an added twist in the Bush propaganda machine's tangled web, when the flag was recently returned to the yacht owners, they announced that it wasn't the right flag! Which, of course means that the "ground zero flag" they received was just one of many in the "ground zero flag" patriotic ropaganda stable - sort of like all those different General Lees they had to use to create the mythic car on Dukes of Hazzard week after week.
Am I knocking the flag? Absolutely not. When I visit Fort McHenry (I live near enough to do so often) and happen to catch the flag raising ceremony there at the home of the original star-spangled banner, I get choked up every time. But for me, the flag is not a mere object, like a plastic Jesus on the dashboard. It is not a commercial "image" like the latest pop logo on a T-shirt to be used to push someone's bill of goods. It is a CONCEPT that is best honored not by carting it around the country like a traveling sideshow, but by upholding what it STANDS FOR. It stands for America the FREE, as in America with an intact Constitution, Bill of Rights, and an honestly elected president. It stands for "give me your tired and poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free," not for rounding up all the swarthy foreigners and detaining them indefinitely without charge. It stands for respect for different belief systems and races - not an all out assault on any nation that fails to adhere to a philosophy and cultural pattern approved by Bush and his cronies, nor state-sanctioned bigotry against any race, be they blacks, Arabs, or uncarded hispanic workers branded "bad" by white conservatives.. America stands for freedom of speech, not for a state-run media that cranks out party propaganda thinly disguised as "news," or for a police force that assaults protestors with pepper spray and rubber bullets. We are supposed to be the nation that FREES the oppressed from concentration camps - not the nation that CREATES new concentration camps!
In short, Bush may have a stable of 50 ground zero flags, but through his actions since the day he was illegally put in office, he has spit on them all. If he truly honored the flag and honored those men who raised the flag above the rubble on 9/11, then he would not have forgotten the principles for which the flag stands, nor would he have forgotten those men whose brothers in uniform sacrificed so much that day. Bush thumbed his nose at the firefighters' request for much needed funding once the 9/11 photo ops had dried up.
Instead, Bush has used 9/11 as a handy tool for leveraging his political agenda and, now, for trying to prosecute an illegal war against Iraq. Now we have a whole new wave of buzz phrase crafting and myth concocting.as Bush spouts "preemptive strike" to sweeten the real lemon of "unprovoked attack," and is disseminating the tale that Hussein has weapons of mass destruction and plans to use them any minute. It doesn't matter that there is NO evidence of this from any intelligence sources, or that the danger of this possibility was never considered sufficient reason to be the aggressor in a war the world does not want until Bush decided it was. In Bush Buzzworld, Hussein is an EVILDOER who is ABOUT TO USE WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION so we must conduct a PREEMPTIVE STRIKE. And, he insults everyone's intelligence by describing his series of 10-minute token phone calls this week to Chinese, French and Russian leaders as "consultating with alies."
I myself have an American flag sticker on my computer tower where I can see it whenever I turn on the machine. Above the image is the source of the sticker: Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association. When I write my rants, I often have disabled veterans in mind. To me veterans symbolize all that is right and wrong with this country. Veterans on the whole, are intensely loyal to one another and, especially those from the wars of dubious morality (Vietnam and the Gulf War) care deeply about global justice. These people sacrificed everything for their country - whether they either had no choice, as draftees, or enlisted, naively believing they were doing what was right. Among disabled vets are a disproportionately high percentage of blacks, hispanics, and other "nonwhites," because these groups have historically been shipped to the most dangerous duty in wars - a practice that I have no doubt will continue in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now, many chronically ill, some confined to wheelchairs or beds, an estimated 200,000 homeless, they are at the mercy of a system that has largely forgotten them. A system that leaves them to raise funds and support as best they can. America wants to watch the bombs and guts and glory on TV, but how many ever set foot in a VA center after the fact to volunteer, make a donation, or visit the disabled guys they might know who served? As the wife of a disabled veteran (my first husband, also a veteran, died from the consequences of severe PTSD), I can tell you: DAMN FEW.
The Bush administration, while using a fabric of lies to drum up suport for a new war, " is spitting on the veterans who have already given their all. Early in his fake administration, he pulled a miserable corporate style scam on vets. He pledged, on paper and for the press that he was going to increase benefits. This window show was done because he wanted vets - a large and vocal group - to support any military shenanigans he might try to pull. But he cleverly fixed it so that the supposed increase in benefits never actually made it to the vets. While Bush allowed the VA to hire all sorts of new people to accept new claims (initial processing), no new "caseworkers" were hired, thus creating chaos and a heartbreaking bottleneck where new claims simply sat in limbo indefinitely. Here in Baltimore, for example, a handful of counselors handles hundreds of disabled vet claims, once they have made it into the system; not one new vocational counselor has been hired in ten years, while the case load has increased many times over. The waiting list from time of submitting a claim to actually seeing any benefits is now 2 to 4 years. And now, it seems Bush has decided that even with this roadblock, vets are getting too much of the money he never intended for them to actually access in the first place. A few weeks ago, he instructed the VA not to inform veterans of the benefits they are entitled to. Yet he wants to create MORE veterans?
Any man or woman who signs up for the Bush military or re-ups during his administration is a fool. Once you are shipped back to the states from Iraq missing legs or arms or eyes, or suffering from a bizarre syndrome from your anthrax vaccine or undisclosed chemicals, do you really think Bush will give a rat's ass about you? Fat chance.
I honor those who have served not by waving a flag in people's faces or egging on the military to "go get those evildoers!". I honor them by donating money to Veterans for Peace, Eastern Paralyzed Vets, and Disabled American Veterans, visiting the VA, and by doing everything I can to help make sure no man or woman will ever be sacrificed again in any war unless the country is under direct and tangible attack by an aggressor.
From where I sit, the most dangerous aggressor on Earth right now is Bush.