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Pseudo Patriots

Boulder's Head Librarian Faces Down the Mob

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, November 07, 2001.

Just when you thought Boulder's penchant for hypocrisy and stupidity had satisfactorily faded, along comes a gigantic fiasco of the sort that recalls Buddy Boulder, the giant rock that business types thought would be a great mascot two decades ago. But this malarkey about the Library flag is too boneheaded, too nauseating to pass unremarked. Not since heroic, hairy-chested American virility stoned dachshunds to death in our hallowed streets, the study of German was removed from school syllabi, hamburger became Salisbury steak, and the Nisei removed to scenic concentration camps has the very worst of our pseudo-patriots come to the fore.

Although the walkways between City Hall and the Library's main branch have been festooned with Old Glory, and even though several flags are included in the library's interior decoration, heroic employees of the library announced that they wished to hang a giant, ten by fifteen foot flag in the entrance area. Never mind that flag etiquette requires a flag to be hung from a pole, or that such a giant hankie would wipe the faces of people in and out, or that it was a really childish idea. Marcelee Gralapp, the Library's director, forbade it. She said a library was open to all and perhaps felt it was not the place for such ostentatious display of war lust, which the additional huge flag would have been. I agree and have been nauseated by the pandering to morons by City Government, city newspaper, and the local wowsers. What was obvious about all this was that it was a setup to attack Gralapp conceived by library employees and orchestrated by her bureaucratic and civilian enemies who resent the forty year employee of Boulder and the city's living symbol of bureaucratic, liberal power. They question her patriotism over this, hoping to stain all who agree with her decision. Although a compromise was reached, and a small pole-hung flag now exists, the vitriol and gas still permeate our city. The national press caught on, and everybody agrees it is embarrassing. We disagree over to whom.

Nowhere was this more evident than in the inevitable letters to the editor. Among many others Mr. Hosmer of Boulder, and Mr. Rodriguez of Louisville, wrote derisive self-congratulatory screeds about the lack of this huge flag at the library entrance. Given as how a vista so deprived might currently be the only such in the country, and because the decision seemed so antagonistic to the mob, what could have been Gralapp's reason not to have caved to the mob's onslaught?

Mr. Hosmer made the startling claim that a flag, or at least our flag, does not represent a political statement, although one would think a national flag the utterest political statement of all and, rather, the whole point. He then allows as how flying a flag somehow shows love, honor, and respect for our country, implying that not showing it suggests the reverse. He is incorrect. Displaying the flag means nothing - nothing more than that the displayer wants to be seen and socially rewarded by the community as loving, honoring, and respecting the country, whatever his or her own thoughts, words, or actions have indicated or currently indicate.

Mr. Rodriguez disagrees with Hosmer, and feels that flying the flag at the entrance not just a political statement, but a BOLD political statement, because rather than using the World Wide Web in their own country to learn how to use box cutters, he feels that since the thugs of September 11 traveled to this country and used our libraries' computers perhaps a large American flag would discourage this sort of behavior. Mr. Rodriguez is incorrect as well. It would be a BOLD political statement to fly it in Kabul, because there would be risk. Here, the only risk is in not flying it. Which is to say, Ms. Gralapp's courage is thus far superior to that of her attackers.

For the same reasons Matthew told how Christ vomited over ostentatious displays of praying in public, we might recall that love of country is rarely indicated by how many flags you fly, how many verses of patriotic songs are sung, how many uniforms hang in the closet, or how many letters to the editor bragging about the preceding are printed. After all, some of the people most upset that their neighbors are not as ostentatiously patriotic as themselves in declining to fly such defining symbols are those that also periodically fly the Confederate flag, the symbol of violent treason against the United States whose adherents killed more Americans than in all our other wars. Our national flag has been flown at every harebrained political gathering, every lynching, every silly athletic event, every travesty of justice that has ever occurred in our history, as well as at some of the great moments. Merely displaying it means nothing, and because we are not Hohenzollern Prussians in love with the bauble over the civilian freedom, that's fine; we know the difference between actual love of country and public, preening affection for its symbol, now mostly made in China, by the way.

Displaying a flag is its own reward, indicating nothing about the patriotism or love of country of its handler. Until Congress girds its loins and actually declares war against someone the flag could currently be viewed as the banner of a potential night mob to the innocent foreigner as it is as the symbol of home and hearth to us.

Ms. Gralapp was forced to make a decision on a trivial issue that should not have been raised, by her enemies who have yet to display anything approaching the dignity and courage she has. Try to imagine any one of them, including those at City Hall or at the Daily Camera, facing down a lynch mob as she has. After the general hilarity dies down, consider: Perhaps she sees the building as a sanctuary, a respite, and a common of quiet, informed contemplation of the sort that exists nowhere outside the United States. An American library is something of which to be very proud. This is Dark Cloud.