Friday, July 18, 2008

Saluting a Chinese flag

From the 21 July 2008 Greater Niagara Newspapers

By Bob Confer

For about a half year following the acts of terrorism perpetrated on September 11, 2001, Americans were a patriotic lot. As the nation and its people healed themselves, Americanism became the “in” thing to do. People bled red, white, and blue and adorned their homes and offices with American flags. Those feelings have long since waned with most American having returned to their old ways, showing their colors only when the occasion demands it, such as on the Fourth of July.

Even though the emotional impact of Americana has gone, the economic impact of this part-time patriotism remains. Due to the incredible spike in demand for American flags that occurred in late-2001 the flag industry found itself unable to keep up. This opened the door for offshore manufacturers and the marketplace was flooded with American flags that were far from being American. They were – and are – like most things seem to be nowadays: cheap imports. In the six months following the attacks tens of millions of dollars worth of foreign-made flags were shipped to the US. In the years since, over $5 million of Asian-manufactured Old Glories have entered our ports each and every year. They are sold throughout the States, chipping away at the market shares once completely dominated by domestic manufacturers.

This is disconcerting. Of all things, one would hope that our flag was American-made. It is the symbol of everything that our country is, representing all of the wonderful gifts that America has given its citizens (and those of other nations) over the past 232 years. When you properly pledge allegiance to this banner you know that the USA is the greatest society that Man has ever known. It’s only fitting that our flags should be made by American hands on American soil and not tainted by “Made in China” labels.

That said, foreign flags are a slap in the face to all past and present servicemen. Millions of men have fought for, and even died, for what our flag stands for. Understanding the sanctity of Stars and Stripes as well as the immeasurable importance of our soldiers and their quest to save Everything America, the US Department of Veterans Affairs uses only American-made flags for burials.

Using that as practice as his guiding light, Bob Filner, Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, was hoping to bring that same attention to domestic detail to the government at large. The Congressman from California introduced a bill back in May that would have required that all flags purchased and flown by the federal government be made in America.

Filner’s well-intentioned bill was shot down last week. It couldn’t get anywhere because of China.

Due to the pervasiveness of supposed free-and-fair trade deals, the federal government cannot dictate where certain products are made or put caps and restrictions on those imports. Flags fall under this category. So, rather than upset the apple cart Congress instead passed something called a “sense of Congress”, which is a meaningless resolution, nothing more and nothing less. It is not a law, but rather a statement. Our government could only go as far to suggest that all government-used flags be American-made. It can enforce nothing in its ranks.

Their lack of backbone is extremely unfortunate. Congress has sold us out and has shown that truthful patriotism is, to it, something not worthy of acting upon in meaningful manner. Pessimistically, maybe it really is fitting that most of our flags do say “Made In China”. With leaders like ours, there’s a good chance that someday everything in the United States – maybe even our own Congress – will have 100% foreign content.

So, it’s up to us to succeed where they fail. If you are one of the few remaining Americans who’s patriotic all the time and not only when it’s what all the popular people are doing, buy American with your next flag. It will be a symbolic act but one quite welcomed by our nation’s symbol and everyone who has fought for it. We need to be saluting American flags and not those manufactured by a nation that one day hopes to take our spot as the most powerful in the world. We don’t want to be saluting their flags then and we don’t need to be doing it now.

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