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Public Property

September 14, 2011

I reached a milestone today in my fledging career as a member of the chattering class. I was genuinely hurt by a couple of comments on my latest Columbia Patch post.

I find it easy to be thick-skinned about comments on the substance of what I say from strangers. I find it a little more difficult to ignore comments from strangers about my writing style or word choice. And now, to my surprise – oy ve voy! – I found it downright upsetting to read negative and angry comments from an acquaintance. This is someone who knows my family well, someone I respect and like – someone who I’d assume is acquainted with my own modest service to my country over the past 19 years. Someone who might reasonably know that I’ve been greeted with “Yankee go home” on foreign streets or tried to do my taxpayer-entrusted work while an angry mob was pitching beer bottles and rotten eggs at my office window because they were unhappy with US foreign policy. Someone who might therefore be expected not to equate my opinion about when it’s appropriate to wear the red, white, and blue with disrespect for my own father or brother-in-law or coworkers, or her brother – or anyone else who serves, for that matter.

Yes, I am a snob with my patriotism. I’m not going to deny it. Unless you’re the President of the United States or the US Ambassador in a foreign country, take the damned flag off your car. Unless you’re displaying your flag appropriately, bring it in the house. These are sacred symbols. Any other use of Old Glory or the red-white-and-blue to me is like wearing our team colors. I wouldn’t wear them to a funeral anymore than I’d show up in MSU Spartan wear, and – sorry, the memory of 9/11 is still a little too vivid for me to treat the anniversary like anything but an occasion of mourning. The people who deserve to be acknowledged for their personal losses that day are the ones who have the right to wear mourning – I do not.

That doesn’t mean I don’t respect and honor the contributions and sacrifices of the people who’ve given their health and lives to serve our country. It means that I am, despite my personal lack of couth, picky as hell in certain mattters of taste.

But I digress. I went into a minor rant about this on Faceboook today after seeing the offending comments and then removed it because – well, hell. I was writing for public consumption, and I was writing about my own opinions. I don’t get bent out of shape when my Facebook friends comment on Patch in support of what I write, so I guess I should learn to appreciate negative comments from people who know me. After all, the more comments I get, whether people agree with me or not, the more likely the nice people at AOL are to keep paying me for my opinions.

Does this mean I’m a real opinion columnist now?

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