If heaven permits smug delight, my father must be grinning. For Monday morning he had the rare pleasure of watching his oft-cynical daughter risk broken limbs to hang an American flag from her rooftop.
You see, we - his little darlings - always laughed at dear ol' dad when he insisted every morning on hoisting the Stars and Stripes on a pole erected in his yard. This monument to patriotism wasn't discreetly located on the south lawn of the family estate, mind you. It was smack dab, front-and-center, by the walkway leading to his front door. We felt like we should stop and snap a salute on our way to pay respects to Herr Popsie. That would have suited him just fine.
"Yep," my brother would laugh, "the ol' man's finally gone off the deep end."
Overnight, we've joined his club. Not just my siblings and I, but the entire nation. Everywhere you look are flags. Except in stores, which are all sold out. I went to a dozen places looking for a flag and couldn't find one. Every flag.com on the Internet apologizes for running out and promises new stocks coming soon. Finally, I borrowed one from a friend and placed my order on the Web.
From my ladder perch outside, I heard the television inside go silent as traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange went quiet for two minutes in honor of the dead. Then an even rarer thing happened. Everyone started singing "God Bless America." Things are definitely not the same.
This sudden surge in patriotism has been a phenomenon both to witness and experience. I find myself intolerant of anyone who dares whisper a divisive word. Those opportunists who've used last week's horror to advance a personal agenda seem unacceptably self-important.
(ital) Later (end ital) we can point out that it was the men, not the women, on Flight 93 who decided to overthrow the terrorists. Posts filling my e-mail box about so-called gender equality have a nyah-nyah quality that rubs even the anti-feminist sympathizer in me. Give it a rest, fellas.
Ditto to those who can't wait to point out that children who lose a parent to divorce and unfair child-custody arrangements are to be pitied no less than the children who lost parents in the terrorist attacks. One could argue that having a parent blown to tiny bits is somewhat more traumatic than weekend visits, but we won't. Couldn't we stash our personal baggage at least until all the body parts have been collected?
Some flag vendors, meanwhile, have been reprimanded for raising prices at this tragic moment in our history. Hey, a dollar's a dollar, right? Not today, says Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has promised to fine vendors as much as $25,000 for taking advantage of America's worst catastrophe.
As for those calling in fake bomb reports and other hoaxes, I'm ready to treat them as traitors. The woman who falsely claimed her husband had called on his cell phone from beneath the World Trade Center rubble, raising hopes and endangering rescuers, deserves a free, one-way ticket to Kabul. Ditto those low-brows who attack innocent Muslim-Americans.
OK, so I'm a little edgy. Like most Americans, I've been glued to the TV set for a week. I'm probably one of those about whom mental-health experts were talking when they said, "If you can't think of anything else, you probably need to turn off the tube." It's true that I can't think of
anything else, but I don't want to. What am I supposed to do, go shopping?
I want to see those horrifying images again and again. Not because I'm a masochist, but because otherwise I fear that I'll relegate them to my mental file of spectacular cinematic effects. That all will fade like the memory of a bad movie, not real, not happening. (ital) Later (end ital) we can make the movie. For now, I want to stay mad as hell because that's what it will take to win this war. This really (ital) is (end ital) the deep end.