, Newburyport, MA


November 15, 2012

Our banner yet waves


As if that’s not enough, the board warns us: “Keep off the Hill.”

Given the obvious impossibility of scaling something as high and nearly as steep as Fenway’s Green Monster with soft sand halfway up, that’s more than enough.

Still, something sits atop the board: A pair of American flags, the hand-held size that nobody cares to admit is manufactured in China and Korea by very low-paid people in factories that started cranking ’round the clock after 9/11 and haven’t much let up since.

This year China gained the added contract for Romney/Ryan hats and T-shirts — although the Obama/Biden campaign tapped Bayside in Rochester, N.Y., where everything is union made.

Bennett Hill’s flags are surely innocent, honest expressions, but the juxtaposition of Old Glory with “Keep Out” jars the memory of anyone who knows the neglected verses of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” including:

When I was walking

I saw a sign

And on that sign

It said ‘No Trespassing’

But on the other side

That sign said nothing!

THAT side was made for you and me!

Property rights have their place, but what if the place disappears?

Bennett Hill’s flags may soon fly in the face of legality following another storm or two: The public has a right of way between the low and high water marks on any shore.

With nearby Greenland melting and ocean temperatures rising (“fuel for tropical storms,” as scientists call it), that could be sooner rather than later.

But that’s another story. I’m much more interested in those flags.

For lawn signs, TV ads, glossy postcards and websites, the Stars and Stripes as a backdrop for indignant and menacing political messages is now the air we breathe.

Many defy language, logic and common sense. Most obvious is the insistence that a health care act based entirely on private companies for insurance can possibly, sanely be called “socialism.”

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