I’m a little worried about my neighbor. He recently mounted a large flag like this one (left) over his garage, and, just so his neighbors wouldn’t miss the message, put two more little ones in the tree in his front yard. Now, somehow, I don’t think he’s telling us to stay off his lawn, or that there might be rattlesnakes amid the crabgrass.
Students of American history will recognize the “Gadsden” flag as a banner of Revolutionary War-era rebellion and solidarity. Still, the sudden reemergence of this flag in recent months is about more than being a history buff or a garden-variety patriot. It’s about anti-Obama paranoia, plain and simple.
Sure, the Gadsden emblem has become trendy of late, appearing on mugs and stickers, as well as a line of “Don’t Tread on Me” clothing sported by Metallica and other rockers. But it’s also appeared at the recent wave of “tea parties,” the astroturf rallies that were nominally tax protests but in practice turned out to be platforms for laundry lists of anti-Obama grievances. Just as the organizers of the tea parties implied a similarity between themselves and the tax protesters in 1773 Boston who sparked the American Revolution, so the wavers of the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag seem to be likening President Obama’s duly elected administration to the tyrannical, dictatorial regime of King George III. The mayor of Riverdale, N.J., just 15 miles from where I live, has made this connection explicit, and has made the Gadsden flag a shibboleth for those riled up enough to march in the streets protesting Obama’s supposed offenses against liberty.
I’m not sure which prospect is scarier: that a sizable minority actually believes that the cautious Obama is some unhinged radical who will somehow curtail the liberties of all Americans by restoring the tax code to what it was during the economic boom of the ’90s and by demanding some minimal accountability from corporate America, or that a sizable minority might actually take the rebel stance implied by their fondness for the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag to its logical conclusion and resort to armed violence against what they perceive to be a tyrannical government. Or are these people just sore losers who can’t get over the fact that their side lost last November? I don’t know where on this spectrum my neighbor falls (as far as I know, he’s also the only one on the block who voted for McCain), but I’m going to think twice if he and his wife ever ask me over for tea.
Aw, heck, maybe he’s just a Grateful Dead fan who really, really likes this song: