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Flying the Flag for Hate
29 March 2002
Well, here I am, back in the land of the axis of good, spending spring - as usual - with the raccoons and contemplating - as usual - a variety of attractive abuses of my status as a US-ordained minister. (You can stuff all that Robbie William marrying-your-mates-on-a-tropical-beach nonsense.)
Out here in the New England countryside, little seems changed since my last visit - except for the flags. I've always found it slightly tautological to fly your country's flag while you're still in it. America is generally of the opposite opinion, but the blossoming of flags here since September is frankly ingenious, if not alarming.
Porches and flagpoles have them, of course, but now so do trees and fences, mail boxes and rocks. Cars without flag bumper stickers have pennant flags fluttering outside their windows, or dangling from their rear-view mirrors. I have not yet seen a dog or a person simply carrying a flag, but I'm in a sparsely populated area and it's only a matter of time. The local native American reservation is flag-free, possibly because it belongs to the wrong kind of Americans.
Which is my problem. All of my friends over here are the wrong kinds of American. They don't fly flags, they feel alienated by their newspapers and uninspired by the phrase "let's roll". Their hearts don't go pitter-pat when they imagine bombing the shit out of people they don't know. Liberal Americans think of Bush and Rumsfeld and then feel frightened, embarrassed and sad.
Given that this makes them, essentially, enemies of the state, deserving immediate imprisonment inside hand-rolled Cuban wire cages, it is exquisitely merciful of George and Don to be planning a national missile defense system which will protect even them. (Although, ironically, the same system will be entirely uninterested in its great admirer, Ian Duncan Smith, unless he comes over here to stay. It is, after all, only intended to defend the US, a minor consideration that Ian seems to have missed.)
Now, of course, the sane among you will point out that, from Eisenhower onwards, US presidents have tried to get missile defense to work and failed. Ronald Reagan - who thought the Pentagon war room in Dr Strangelove actually existed - also believed that America had a vast network of space laser superweapons. On finding this wasn't the case, Reagan and then George Bush Sr spent monstrous amounts of other people's money on finding out that the technology they craved was impossible to realize outside George Lucas's head.
Clinton, having more adult concerns, downgraded the project. George Jr has, naturally, pleased his pals in the armaments industry by cranking up the spending, even though the only part of any system that might conceivably be made to work won't guard against mass missile launches, biological or chemical attack, multiple warheads or any attack not made by missile. Still, it can be guaranteed to destabilize international relations for at least the rest of the decade.
Which is a good thing for the axis of good, because you can only tell people that grotesque weapons spending and civil rights restrictions are desperately necessary for so long. Eventually, you have to come up with a credible, fightable, defeatable axis of terror. Otherwise, you have to fall back on the risky (and, again, fictionally inspired) Mysteron Defense, as currently deployed by the Blair government. Which is to say: somewhere out there, possibly in Iraq, or North Korea, or anywhere else you've never been to on holiday, there is an unimaginable evil.
Really, we'd prefer it if you didn't try to imagine it, but if you must, think of all kinds of nasty weapons - chemical, nuclear, biological, mind-control, floaty light beams that do weird stuff. And without Captain Scarlet, or Spectrum, or even the men from UNCLE to help us, we're just going to have to lash out wildly and expensively in many (preferably non-Christian) countries, trash lots of economies and kill a great many people, while pissing off a great many more. Only then will we have created a true axis of evil, worthy of all our spending plans and propaganda. After all, how can you feel good about yourself while you over consume, enforce debt and inequity and disperse pollution all over the world, if you have no one to hate?
The US fall-back position, of course, involves launching thousands of high-altitude flags in a pre-emptive strike of patriotic resolve. Which will leave leftwing Americans, just as they are now, wishing they lived somewhere else, while wanting to stay, because - not unreasonably - they think of America as their home.