Thursday, 26 June 2014

O'er The Land Of The Free And The Home Of The Brave

On the road out of San Diego heading towards Julian and the Anza Borrego Desert my brother and I discovered this unique architectural statement. 

It was November 2004 and I asked my patient brother to stop while I took a photo. Here was a living, breathing example of the seriousness with which Americans (for the most part, there are exceptions) took the subject of patriotism and national pride, the core intangible concepts of which seem to be embodied in visible symbols such as the flag and the bald eagle. 

USS Midway at the Embarcadero in San Diego, 2012
I had become fascinated with the nature of American patriotism and interested in how their sense of allegiance to flag and country differed so greatly from ours in Australia. 

Veteran's Memorial on Mt Soledad, the highest point in San Diego, 2012
In America the flag is conspicuous, on display and treated with respect; flown not just on government buildings and the like but barely a suburban street exists without at least one or two flags flying from homes.

Haight Ashbury District, San Francisco, 2012
Morro Bay California, 2012
A home in Los Osos in the San Luis Obispo District, California, 2012
In December of 2010 I went to San Diego alone to spend Christmas with my brother. We made the usual pilgrimage out through Julian and up into the mountains. This time the day was grey and wet, very untypical weather for the area. The same shed still stood shouting the same message. In a moment of deja vu I could not help but grab another shot as we passed by.

You can find the flag anywhere. It's a symbol of many things and I'm sure that for every American the list differs depending on their personal story. 

Train at San Luis Obispo Station, 2012
I'm a lucky outsider who has been given a chance to participate a little in the American culture beyond the experience of a tourist. When you scrape away Yellowstone, Hollywood and Disney, you get a people not unlike us, just a little louder and brasher and with less sense of personal space :). 

Giant flag at a gas station in Baker, on the road to Las Vegas, 2012
My experience has been that the flag is something unifying, an unchanging constant in the face of uncertain times, and an embodiment of the freedom Americans feel strongly and defend fiercely. Again I think each citizen would define that freedom differently.

Flag near the Golden Gate Bridge in Marine Drive at
half-mast by Presidential Decree, to show respect for
victims of a shooting, 9th August 2012
(image by Danny)
In 2012 I returned to San Diego, bringing Danny for his first US trip. This time it was a scorching summer day when Simon took us out to the desert. We again stopped at our eagle shed for photos so I could remind myself that even in the face of life’s turbulence, some constants remain.

And on a more personal note, congratulations to my brother Simon for today being awarded his US citizenship (dual) after almost 2 decades in the country. America may have you, Simon, but I know you still call Australia home.

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