It’s a Grand Ole Flag

Unity, the proverbial bone of contention, and the reason I carried a jar with me on my impromptu visit to Saint Paul’s Chapel in Lower Manhattan yesterday (to catch the inevitable rush of drops from my eyeballs).  Some women who have better bodies than most of us, and a whole lot less shame, wrap themselves in it (no, not when they die, silly). People burn it when they are angry, raise it when they win, bring it with them to war, stick it on their cars, and use it as a memory of loved ones lost.

The last one hit me hard yesterday. Lines of names of those we lost that day are etched into the image of it.  The place is obviously, and appropriately, somber. The memories are still vivid, like it was yesterday. There, in the quiet chapel a lone bed sits up against the back wall, a token left there of the heroes that spent their nights there waking to search the rubble the next day.

Going there unexpectedly sent me on a path, finding patriotism along the way. People simply live and work, fighting hard to make a living and get by, cohabiting a place where they nearly sleep on top of each other. They do this, in varying degrees of relative peace. Well, I don’t because of the hyena-pterodactyl that lives upstairs from me. Please God, let him become a moody teenager soon, or something.

I left the chapel and walked north through Manhattan, stopping by furniture outlets run by the Chinese and Russians. I passed nearly thousands of people on the street speaking languages that I can comprehend a bit, and others I wish I had time to conquer like I conquer a vanilla cupcake when I’m hormonal. Such is life.

I found myself drawn to Union Square once again, my feet aching from a poor life choice that morning in the shape of shoes. As I neared the pounding of drums that seemingly never ceases there, I caught sight of something flying low above the crowd.

Image: American Flag + Occupy / CCO

Its color and design was familiar, having seen it earlier in the day. Its significance incomparable to any other symbol I’m aware of.  In the month I have spent sitting alone in that square, or interviewing the homeless or “the movement” people, I have yet to witness such a sight.

Days ago, Justin, who has been with OWS since the beginning, emphatically expressed his dedication to the “microcosm” of America within the space. Last week, the anarchist movement set up a table next to his and distributed their own literature, although passers-by aren’t aware of the difference. People talk to people. Police officers stand close by, three of whom were talking about some kid’s pants. Again, peaceful.

But this day was different. Faces turned to a specific angle, uplifted just a bit. Something prickly was there. The fact that it was raised at all, and that it was a strange occurrence, fascinated me. The kid who held it was faceless, his identity unimportant next to the symbol of unity that put him in a shadow. Even that was beautiful. Sometimes we forget, don’t we?

“We don’t know where we are going, and we don’t have an end in sight. Sometimes I realize something in conversation with someone that I’d been working on in my head about for months. We have to talk. We have to disagree. We have to pay attention.  Everyone’s reason for being here is different. It’s tragic how we have become so distanced from discourse and separated.  We’re figuring it out as we go along.  Maybe we are just an example.”

My non-leader interviewee turned to chat with a girl about her pajama pants-turned into political sharpie art. A lady in Jackie-O sunglasses knitted quietly under the stars. The crazy guy in a frayed white skirt, work boots and fringe abruptly stopped yelling at three Asian girls eating apples. Nervous giggles and nodding heads ensued as he walked away.

I put my pen down and stared at the stripes. Maybe we don’t need to get “somewhere” and change. Maybe we are already there.

Twalk @funnychristine on Twitter.  It’s good for you.  Find her on little stages in New York somewhere figuring out the hard way that some words are just not okay to say in front of people.


  1. Great article Chris!