Unspun Logo

The Drive to Extremism

Posted by Rick · June 18th, 2005 · 7 Comments

This past week, I’ve begun to get an understanding of why America is the land of extremes.

Club One Casino with flags
Click to Enlarge

Extremism is on the rise in America because it seems to be the only form of politicking that actually gets results. Let’s face it, following a path of moderation and compromise takes longer. And as the number of Americans weaned on television commercials and impulse buying grows, so, too, does our unwillingness to get involved in processes that last longer than five minutes.

But more than that is the frustration that comes from knowing that your product — whether it’s “respect for the United States’ flag” or “living a godly life” or “tolerance” — just doesn’t sell.

What brought this home to me this week is the difficulty — no, the impossibility — of convincing Club One that deliberately allowing the continued desecration of the flag of the United States of America is (shall we say) “not a Good Thing™.” From all appearances, Club One wholeheartedly disagrees.

I say this not because Club One has actually said to me, “We disagree.” No, like a lot of other Americans, they can’t be bothered with the problem even long enough to say this; yet their actions speak louder than any words ever could.

And as I sit in my office, day after day, gazing out the window at the rags that once were American flags, my mind increasingly seeks ways to resolve this problem and erase this disgrace. In my saner moments, I’ve thought about — and tried — to get our religious and patriotic Mayor involved. That, so far, has earned me a nice form letter which one local attorney labeled “an insult.” I’ve tried talking to news reporters, thinking that, surely in a Red city with a large conservative base, they would find the treatment of these flags to be newsworthy. Other times, I’ve considered finding a way to get up there and tear down those rags myself. Given that they’re in so many pieces, this could take a long time, during which, I imagine, I’d find myself arrested for trespassing.

Bunny Chafowitz has suggested a Fourth of July protest, but I dislike the idea of standing on a sidewalk railing at passersby. To me, this smacks too much of those other hapless downtown residents who, due to lack of government funding, are unable to get the medication they so badly need to live normal lives (or at least less insane ones).

And then it occurs to me that, in the end, that might be the only way to get the attention of enough people to shame Club One into doing something about it.

From there, I begin to understand the extremists.

No doubt, my “understanding” is still somewhat simplistic. Extremism in America probably streams from more than one source. After all, there are some people who will never be satisfied with compromise and, in a pluralistic nation, compromise is a necessity. If you think about it, that makes sense. How many of us always get what we want? Even if you don’t have a spouse or kids, even if you don’t have a job, even if you’re homeless, life itself is a compromise. There are always choices to be made. Usually, choosing one thing precludes having another. So even if there were no others in your life with whom you had to compromise, you’d still have to learn to compromise with yourself.

I started thinking about extremism in America long ago, but I only began to understand what drives extremists on a more personal level this week. That understanding does not convince me to embrace it.

I’m still disgusted with these flags. And, frankly, I’m disgusted with you, too. After all, if not for you, those flags would be gone. I’ve spent hours trying to resolve the issue; you can’t be bothered with one-to-five minutes for a phone call to the Mayor’s office at (559) 621-8000 or Club One at (559) 497-3000. (You can also email the Mayor at mayor@fresno.gov. You’ll get an insulting form-letter response after a bit, but if anyone — say, an intern — actually periodically checks that box, the more people write, the more likely something will be done.)

But I’ve largely resigned myself to the fact that America is the land of hypocrisy. The United States is a nation that has no problem turning its backs on veterans who will tell you their compatriots died for the flag, and that they were willing to do so, as well. So why should I be surprised that you can’t get off your ass long enough to make a phone call expressing outrage over Club One’s failure to spend a few dollars and fifteen minutes changing out the flags?

Contrary to the opinion some folk have of me, I’m not an extremist — at least not where extremism requires a willingness to break the law. I have no problem with working to change laws. I have no problem writing and making phone calls and talking to people to try to initiate change. I’m just unwilling to take a step towards breaching the system of law that, in my opinion, is the only thing which ultimately keeps us from being exactly like the terrorists we so often (hypocritically, as I’ve noted) villify.

And so, I guess, I’ll just sit in my office, gazing out at the rags over Club One, and hoping I live long enough to see them disintegrate to the point that they fall off the flagpoles.

Then I’ll walk over, pick them up, and give them the funeral they deserved to have years ago.

Incidentally, those of you who are regular readers and are wishing I’d “get over the flag thing” and “move on” (yes, I read my emails)…consider this: I’m more likely to do that when those flags are gone. So make your phone call, send your email, today.

After all, if I can’t sit in the middle of a supposedly patriotic and religious Red city and get enough people riled to resolve a decidedly unpatriotic abuse of the American flag, what’s the point of my writing about anything else?

Categories: Culture Wars


7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 abi // Jun 18, 2005 at 1:45 pm

    If you think a phone call from Scotland would humiliate them, I’m glad to make one. But they could certainly say that I’m not in their constituency.

  • 2 Rick Horowitz // Jun 18, 2005 at 5:05 pm

    Heh… I wonder what would happen if they received several overseas calls, telling them how disgraceful and hypocritical it was…

  • 3 Bob // Jun 20, 2005 at 8:43 am

    Just another update.

    On Friday I called Councilwoman Sterling’s office again and re explained the issue to another assistant. I was promised a call back but it was so late on Friday I didn’t expect one that afternoon.

    Hopefully, someone will follow up today.

  • 4 Bob // Jun 20, 2005 at 5:30 pm

    OK, more update news…

    Marlin, the assistant that I spoke to at Sterling’s office called back and told me the same story, you know, the one about the hotel being owned by someone else and they don’t have access.

    Well, the new wrinkle is that the “owner” has agreed to give Club One access for the purpose of changing the flags. He mentioned no time frame.

    OK, Rick, keep your head up and look for new flags. If that actually happens I’d love to see some pix.

    Democracy in (in)action. Gotta love it.

  • 5 chuckbeaver // Jun 21, 2005 at 3:11 pm

    Fretting over a tattered set of rags for more than their deserved few minutes just indicates a lack of ability to put things in perspective. People are dying in Iraq because of an impeachable set of lies. This deserves your energy more than flying bits of red and white outside your window.

  • 6 Rick Horowitz // Jun 21, 2005 at 10:50 pm

    Always good to hear from a long-time reader….

    Oops! My bad. I guess if you were a long-time reader, you’d see where the majority of my energy has been spent over the last few years.

    If you can’t show respect for the symbols, you certainly can’t show respect for that which they represent.

    People are dying in Iraq, for all the reasons I’ve written about for years now, in articles which, apparently, you’ve never read. But if I can’t rile up a population that claims to honor our country and claims to send its children to die for our flag, then what’s the point in writing about the rest of it?

    After all, it takes a mere 15 minutes to fix the symbols; years to fix the national character they were meant to represent.

    So, you tell me: If I cannot even convince people who are already predisposed to honor symbols over substance to spend a few minutes on the symbols, why should I spend significant amounts of my time trying to convince them to change something that will take much greater effort?

  • 7 chuckbeaver // Jun 22, 2005 at 11:14 am

    Actually, I have been following your blog for sometime, and enjoying it. You generally are on the right track. I just happen to not agree with you on this one point.

    “If you can’t show respect for the symbols, you certainly can’t show respect for what they represent”.

    Of course, there is no such law of thinking. I surely feel capable of respecting the ideals of America without respecting a random collection of colored cloth. People don’t die for a piece of flapping cloth, but for what it represents. To confuse the cloth with the idea, or worse, insist they are one and same, seems like arguing about the number of angels on the head of pin? Unresolvable existential entanglements don’t seem worth our time.

    All I’m saying is, let us not get snagged on repairing symbols over reparing substance.

    Peace to you, and may your blog continue to say the right things in these wrong times.

Leave a Comment