Why all the flag-waving?
Happy 5th of July. Although I’m writing this on the 3rd of July, I feel pretty confident that my 4th of July will be an annual family affair at my sister Debi’s house—one in which we both grew up, so it’s still the Old Grobaty Place that my late parents bought for $36,000 back in 1967; not cheap, but doable. A couple of years later my dad proudly announced he was finally making $10,000 a year. Or maybe it was $12,000. Either way a handsome income.
The family used to spend Independence Day at some friends’ house somewhere in Orange County, where fireworks were legal and where we blew up unspectacular safe-and-sane fireworks and twirled sparklers around and probably (being’s how the house belonged to a Marine Corps colonel and his family of two boys and countless girls — watch the movie “The Great Santini” and you’ll get the gist of how the family worked) hidden beneath a veneer of bellicose, nationalistic patriotism.
And that was OK. Most people in those days celebrated the day keeping those feelings under wraps, even the good colonel who, with my mom, argued that it is “sweet and fitting” to die for one’s country in, say, Vietnam, what with my inevitable draft too-quickly approaching.
Happily, the war fizzled out right after I drew a dangerously-low draft number a couple of years after my dad bought the house, putting me in a long line of Grobaty men who didn’t march off to war.
But those mid-to-late 1960s Independence Day celebrations were mostly devoid of politics and arguments, even though we were on the doorstep of anti-war activism. It was backyard barbecues and, as I said, blowing things up, generally without adult supervision as the oldsters were busy singing Al Jolson numbers and engaging in cocktail-fueled hilarity. And if we waved flags around, it was because it was America’s birthday and, yes, we were happy to be Americans instead of Russian kids who we had been told lived utterly joyless and laborious lives.
Today, patriotism has become complicated; the flag has been captured by the extreme right as both a symbol for all they believe in, which is an ugly smorgasbord of anti-isms: a distrust or disgust of history and literature, an abhorrence of anything regarding sex or gender that strays from the mustiest pages of the Old Testament, a distaste of alternative thought or tolerance of people of color or non-fundamentalist religions, a disdain for common human decency, a lust for lies.
On every erstwhile patriotic holiday, a man drives around my neighborhood in an open jeep with an oversized American flag flapping from the back while patriotic music blares from speakers. In the old days, that would’ve seemed quaint and cool; in today’s political climate it comes across as belligerent as, too, sadly, do the displays of the American flag, especially after it made such a boisterous appearance as a weapon in the hands of traitors in the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection.
But then, there are still people who fly the flag on their porch out of a love of this country for the reasons many of us did years ago. People who love it for its better angels and for Americans who still believe in the goodness and honesty that still remains here, including those dread three letters, DEI—Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, all loathsome words in their lexicon. In many ways it can be considered brave to fly the flag for continuing to embrace goodness and progress in the face of increasing anger, hatred and ugliness.
If that’s your cause for celebrating and your reason for displaying the flag, then long may it wave in love.
What to watch this weekend
Drop me on a desert island with just one genre of TV shows to watch, and I’m gonna go with legal drama, and you can find me Somewhere in the Pacific this weekend on a binge-fest with the second season of “The Lincoln Lawyer” on Netflix starting Friday.
The 10-episode season will drop in two parts, with the initial five episodes starting Friday, with another batch of five coming Aug. 3.
The series, featuring Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as attorney Mickey Haller, who works out of a chauffeured Lincoln Continental, as well as Becki Newton as Lorna Crane, his second ex-wife and legal aide, and Angus Sampson as Cisco, his investigator and Lorna’s fiancé.
The series, based on the “Lincoln Lawyer” books by Michael Connelly, is a fast-paced mix of crime and courtroom drama, and the first season was so good I watched it twice—and as you are no doubt aware, I’m a busy man without a lot of spare time on my hands.