Flag Country

Letter From Illinois

I live in flag country.  Here in east-central Illinois, amid the corn and soybean fields, the whistle-stop towns on their grid of well-maintained blacktops, the Stars and Stripes are as common as blue jeans.  The banner flutters from angled rods on the pillars of wraparound porches, flies from big poles in front of white two-story farmhouses.  On the Fourth and Veteran’s Day, it multiplies like dandelions around the old squares and along the parade routes.  Driving up Illinois 130 to Champaign, my wife and I pass a barn whose owner sometimes displays an Old Glory two stories tall.  We always wonder where he could have gotten such a thing.

If your needs are more modest, however, you can buy flags at Rural King or Wal-Mart or truck plazas over on the interstate.  You can buy flag license plates, flag jackets, flag backpacks, or packages of miniature flags on toothpicks for your kid’s birthday cake.  Pickups sport flag decals in the back windows, right beneath the gunracks, leaving space on the bum-per for more explicit slogans: “God, Guns, and Guts Built America—Let’s Keep All Three.”  More often than you might expect, you drive past some old house and note two flags flying: Old Glory and the Confederate Battle Flag.

Somehow I never quite get it.  As far back as the 50’s, learning the Pledge as a first-grader in Albuquerque, New...

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