Friday, October 10, 2003

My husband recently posted an American flag on our front porch. Quite a few things you need to know about that flag. First of all, he didn't ask me if I wanted it there. Second, I have a house in Seattle and my husband has a house in Sacramento. That we have two houses certainly isn't an accident. Almost six years ago we were separated. A favorite thing I like to say (and it's pretty much true) separation saved our marriage. I got a job. I got my own place at a distance of 140 miles plus from Sacramento. And I decided, for better or worst, that I love him and would stay married. I often revisit that decision. But I made that decision. And at least for the time being, I have no interest in going there again. I'd rather spend the energy making my peace with that decision.

So the point. We survive to this day because there is distance. At one point the distance was the 140 miles between Sacramento and San Jose. For almost two years now it's been the distance between Sacramento and Seattle. And that's been for the better from my point of view. I have enough distance to win some distance, think about things a bit, and survive.

The flag in a way signals the very complex patterns of that survival. The flag is there because he's here in Seattle and I don't want to fight. The flag is definitely a statement. If I fight against the flag, it really is war, for us. I'm still thinking about the flag. And frankly waiting for him to leave so I can probably take it down--though I haven't totally decided yet. That flag does "flag" a new tear in our relationship. Here's what happened.

I can't even remember what started the struggle. But I said something about my frustration with the whole discussion about "patriotism," flagging someone as an enemy because of criticism about America. My husband is very much in the middle of the conservative talk radio scene. And I have to say little before he's angry at me. It's always a little difficult to figure out why, to figure out what I've done. That's the way I feel about this particular discussion. It's out there in something of a blur. Not sure what I said. But it was enough to start the free associational slide that leads him to a sense of high anxiety, frustration, fear. About America, about it's danger from socialism, about all the things that threaten freedom, life as it is now. I can't even make sense of this. But it makes him crazy. And before I could do anything about the slide, he was there. . . . Where I'm the threat, the enemy. And in that place he says things I can never quite forget or forgive. And this time he was going on about how he shouldn't associate with someone with such dangerous ideas. He should catch a plane a fly back to Sacramento. I cried. Mourned yet again my wishes, my hopes, my disappointments. And of course he didn't leave.

What he did do is buy a flag. And while I was away from the Seattle house, he put the flag there. It wasn't worth a question about why, what it means, the agression of putting it there in the wake of those words to me. But it's been flagging there for almost two weeks now. Us not talking about it. He'll be on his way to Sacramento again next week. And then I'll need to decide what I do with the flag.

Again, I find myself painfully in a place by myself. I'm very uncomfortable with what that flag means to him. I don't like that, and there's a great deal of anger in me that will come out in the vicinity of that flag.

But I'm also thinking of a conversation I had with a friend back last winter. The sense that the flag means something bad. How can that be? That seems really negative. It's like my husband hating to go to coffee houses because negative people go there. Being frustrated with listening to a favorite musicians because suddenly he's favorite with the "unwashed." How can I refuse to love the flag, love my country because it means something particular to the left, something particular to my husband. Where do I stand. Am I intimidated by his anger, his judgment, the negative things that happen between us because I refuse the either/or (that's a whole other discussion)? Or am I intimated by the man across the street with his Impeach Bush sign in the window. I'm so alienated by both.

So what do I do with that flag??

1 comment:

SusanS said...

I still have that flag. I decided it was my symbol. My love of country. It is at its end. And I plan to buy another. I can't let the meaning a symbol has for someone else determine what I do.