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11.05.08

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Flag Day

On the day after the election, one man reflects on being American

By Tony Camacho

It was the morning following the election, and I kept hearing distant winds as if another fall storm was on us, but I was wrong. In fact it was a nation-wide, collective sigh as this election season wound down. Some election seasons seem endless, but after years of Romney and Hillary, rabble-rousing preachers and moose-killing governors, I think It's safe to say we are exhausted.

On this historic election day, Nov. 4, when we were all turning blue and holding our breath, I wanted my eight-year-old daughter to experience voting first-hand, to see what this brouhaha is really all about. So on that cool fall day, my wife and I bundled up our two girls in sweaters and strolled to our local polling place, with Reno the dog pissing on nearly everything in sight along the way.

My daughter joined me in the voting booth with pen in hand. She carefully filled in the ballot as instructed, asking all the right questions about the various propositions. And when we laid it all to rest, she dropped it into the ballot box and proudly wore her "I Voted!" sticker as we left.

Wrapped in blankets in front of the TV that night, we watched as the pundits tried to get in the last word while the numbers slowly told the story. We played state geography as one poll after another closed and the winner was finally named.

As a testament to the power of saturation advertising, even three-year-old Miriam recognized John McCain when he gave his conciliatory speech. Somewhere along the campaign trail, she discovered she could seriously annoy me simply by chanting "John McCain. John McCain. John McCain."

McCain, true blue through and through, was gracious as he thanked all for their work. Obama was presidential. That remarkable oratorical gift of his brought disenfranchised young voters back to the polls. Record numbers of Mexican-Americans voted for a black man. In a litmus test of Bush fatigue, red states turned to blue. More blacks voted than in any previous election. Obama's got a miserable job ahead of him. I really don't see him sleeping well anytime soon, but I'm an optimist. I still believe there's a pony in the pile somewhere, even after eight long years of shoveling it on.

I was reflecting on the campaign this morning, and once again I just bristled as I recalled Gov. Sarah Palin calling Obama's patriotism into question, inferring that parts of the United States were not as American as the mid-central crowd she was addressing. I've lived in Texas and Los Angeles, the East Coast and Sonoma County, and I seem to recall a flag flying wherever I went.

History may come to show that the divisiveness that seems a prerequisite to being a Republican candidate turned like a cranky old moose and bit the GOP in the butt this election. When did it become unpatriotic to complain loudly and often that our politicians are bums and should be tossed out on their ears? That's as American as apple empanadas and goat-cheese tamales.

So when I awoke the morning after election night, finally exhaling after long years of pounding and merciless electioneering, I felt that I needed some closure, especially with Gov. Palin. Un-American? Was she talking to me? Unshaven and still in pajamas, I stumbled into the garage and banged around looking for a treasure that I had packed away, hidden somewhere in the piles of old books and train sets, camping gear and 15-year-old wedding gifts still in their boxes. But I found it. It's a beautiful American flag, yellowed with age. And it's large. A good 20 feet in length, it is perfect for hanging from our balcony.

As I was securing it in place, a neighbor shouted up from the street, "Is it Flag Day today?" I smiled and said, "It is for me," and carried on. When I was finished, I went with coffee in hand to stand on the sidewalk and admire my work.

There's really nothing quite as inspirational as an American flag. It just sings to me, especially this one, my old one. It's slightly faded because it's an antique like me and over 50 years old. I chose it because it has only 48 stars. This was Old Glory before Alaska and Hawaii joined the union.

And in flying this flag that morning, I sliced Alaska right the hell off the map. I'll make it up to Hawaii somehow. Maybe put a little colored umbrella in my glass of red or something.


Open Mic is now a weekly feature in the Bohemian. We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 700 words considered for publication, write openmic@bohemian.com.

 

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