The beach of Long Beach is bordered by dunes, a boardwalk, and a palisade of high rises.
Just over those high rises is Broadway, a busy thoroughfare that everyone in Long Beach traverses—many with families in tow.
There is a car on Broadway, parked for many months, with flags that say, “FUCK BIDEN.” The profane flags, more graffiti than message, had a jarring effect when first spotted, like a klaxon horn on a quiet Sunday morn.
Many people complained about the flags, but since they are within the rights of the flagist, the banners stayed.
I was irritated too when I’d drive by the flags. My immediate thoughts were: they were disrespectful, uncivil, especially when civility is sorely needed these days. They are not helpful in moving America forward.
Besides, aren’t there better words to convey one’s political passion without being needlessly crude?
So trite an epithet too. If the flagist was so bent on an image of f**king Biden, wouldn’t, BUGGER BIDEN, work? Or if that’s too Brit for ya, maybe, BIDEN, GET BENT? Wouldn’t those be a bit more creative, perhaps even humorous, while not so offensive?
They would still catch the eye of passers-by.
Now, both sides of the political aisle use vulgarities for attention, I wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t something like it out there on the Dem side. But I never saw a sign that said, HUMP TRUMP.
There’s a passionate mind behind those anti-Biden flags. Passion is usually good, of course. But I’ve read of some people not having a passion—but a passion having them. These passions are more motivated by external recognition, than by internal satisfaction, or pleasure.
And although the flags evoke thoughts of a raised fist or a flipped finger toward foes, they aren’t violent. They are after all just words, and no one ever got hurt by a verb or a noun. I never arrested anyone for assault and verbery.
Then one day, while stopped at the light, I had time to dwell on something I already knew: how fantastic it was to live in a country that allowed such signage.
There are nations on this planet that would imprison—or execute—citizens who proclaimed far less unhappiness about their leader. In America, there’d be no knock on the door in the middle of the night to take this flagist to an arena. He and his family are safe. That’s a damn good thing to remember. I saw these flags differently now.
Suddenly, my irritation was gone. I felt a sense of calm, even joy, that such profane, political outrage was protected. It’s been said, “Protest is liberty’s ally.” True, true, true.
Maybe, with this in mind, parents might point out the flags to their children as iconic reminders of the freedoms we enjoy in America. With passing time the inflaming flags have lost most of their power to outrage anyway. I think most denizens of the City By The Sea—just got used to them. The F word had been de-fanged.
In these times of horrendous hurricanes—hell fires searing America’s forests and farms—town drowning deluges—droughts that kill livelihoods—E 5 tornados that suck up homes, grandmas, babies—like a vacuum from hell, shouldn’t we be flying words that bring us together?
Meanwhile, the people of Long Beach will just salute our flag, the flag so many have fought and died for. So many with a burning passion for America. So many with love of the flag that allows protest flags—to blow in the wind.
So, the flags fly and people and the people sigh.
and move on…
…to the other side of the dunes:
Our beach is quiet these December days, just the cries of gulls and smashing waves.
People find joy in a quiet place. A place far removed from the din of politics, even the noise of personal trials. It’s a private place of being with one’s passion. I seek those people—that’s my passion.
The temp said, fifty, but the wind blew any notion of a balmy beach away. Low clouds shrouded the sea and jetties, footprints spoke of others trekking their moments.
I came upon sculpted scarping; signs of erosion, sure, but certainly, picturesque, and to a certain eye—canyonesque.
I came upon the gaping maw of the whale, about to gulp Jonah.
As I approached the windbreak I discovered Ben, apparently set up for 4th of July, not the 4th of Dec. He had a thermos, a table of snacks, and a kite reel tied to his chair. Ben was set up for his passion.
Ben is a pilot for Jet Blue and he loves the beach, whether at a turnaround in sunny Barbados, or home in Long Beach:
But Ben’s passion is the wide open sky. When he’s on the ground, he still soars over puffs of cumulus, or under wisps of cirrus. Ben watches planes approach JFK over our Long Beach sands. He uses an App, Flight Aware, that tells him where each flight is coming from.
Ben even flies a kite when he’s at the shore. Ben grew up flying kites with his dad, a now retired airline pilot. The kite reminds him of his dad and those days
It seems to me, even on the ground, Ben’s up there with the airbus or with the kite carrying memories so lightly in its tail.
Even in the wind, Ben and I could hear the whine, the roar of jet engines approaching from the Southeast. Ben said the plane was lined up for runway 31 West at JFK. Ben said most such planes use that runway. As the roar subsided, Ben said, most people hate the sound of jets overhead. He said, ”I like it.”
I encountered fisherman, Tyler in his moment.
Tyler Carlson was a snowboard instructor in Colorado for years, soaring through his own cumulous clouds of white powder. But since the pandemic Tyler coaches skateboarding In Brooklyn with Homage Skateboard Academy: https://tinyurl.com/3jkr9nm7 Tyler says when he got back from Colorado, it was the “closest thing to a job” he could find.
Tyler said he hadn’t caught any fish today, “But I wouldn’t be catching anything sitting back home, either.” Words that speak to his passion, a passion he shares on Instagram. See TYC119 on Insta.
Tyler comes to the shore to fish, surf and meditate. He says, he meditates, “anytime I’m around the water. When I’m on my surfboard in the lineup, fishing from shore, or just sitting there looking out to sea, I’m just able to feel so calm in that environment. The other worries going on at the time actually fade at those moments by the water.”
Later, in an email, Tyler sent me photos he took while grappling with a striper he caught and released at sunset.
Love the action:
No, these old souls don’t fly their passion—in our faces.
They fly their passion—on their faces.
Thank you. Yes the flags are a reminder of our freedom of speech. But it’s sad that a more appropriate fag isn’t flown to bring America together in these trying times. Maybe a WWII style: We’re all in it to win it, America!
Great post! I love how you helped to take away the annoyed feeling the vulgar flags might cause simply by appreciating the freedom of speech we all are fortunate enough to have in this country. Something to keep in mind in any of those circumstances.
I also enjoyed reading about the authentic passions of Ben and Tyler. The juxtaposition of those stories with the flags story was appreciated.
Hey Walter, glad you liked my posts. Keeps the gray matter from disintegrating too fast on me. Yes, we need to “work out our differences and remain the United States of America.”
Be well, Brother,
Actually, we did work semi-together when I worked in Dist 20. You are spot on, “no need to dehumanize.” And I like your word, “compromise.” We can compromise for what’s best for America—not our seat in Congress.
Ray, thank you so much for your kind words.
Glad you enjoy reading my posts.
I don’t engage in political exchanges on my blog’s comments page, nor anywhere else these days. Too much other stuff to do with my dwindling time. So, I won’t comment further.
When you say, “We should be able to beat them to death”, etc. It sounds like you include me with the “We.” Brother, I believe we have different points of view re: Trump/Biden.
But, when it comes to F flags, and you say, “We are better than that.” you can definitely include me in the “We.”
The biggest problem America faces now is not the border, not voting rights, not vaccines, masks and mandates, nor even health care—it’s polarization.
We are caught up in it, if one side proposes, the other side feels it needs to shoot it down so that what is good for America doesn’t happen on the watch of the other.
The thing is, we know that. But we do it anyway. We are paralyzed by polarization.
Words that speak of thought, reason, compromise are not weak words, they are words of building, growing, coming together. They are words that try to reach a place that is in both sides. A place where we are one. Those words help us to move toward what’s best for America.
Gross, inflammatory signs or flags, of any kind, do nothing to help America move forward. They just inflame polarization.
America persevered through wars that killed our sons and daughters, moms and dads. We persevered because we were the—United—States of America.
We need to move toward that spirit again. And F bombs won’t take us there.
Merry Christmas to you and your family, Bill.
Be well, Brother,
thank u for your words so true’
I came on the job the next class after Lee. I never worked with or met Lee – I wish I would have. I really appreciated his post. I wish all people could understand the respect we should have for other people’s opinions EVEN IF WE DON’T AGREE. we can dispute BUT three is no need to belittle or dehumanize. We don’t have to have the whole enchilada, we can compromise. I wish our congress could find a way to do that. BUT, even if that’s not possible we, as citizens, should look for ways to help – not -destroy this great country.
Lee, I have to admit that I did not read the whole blog. But when it comes to the signs saying FU Biden I am as offended as you. While I feel this emotion myself there is no place for it to be displayed as such. We are better than that. We should be able to beat them to death with our response to their positions and the destruction they are bringing to our country without resorting to the vernacular.
I enjoy reading your posts. I agree that these flags may be offensive to some and I feel there are better ways and words to express ones thoughts. You are correct that we (Americans) are fortunate that we may speak about our political leaders without getting arrested. Hopefully we may all work out our differences and remain the United States of America.
Sarah, I’m happy that my post brought back so sweet memories. Savor them. And every day too.
Carol, Glad it made you feel better about those @#$*& flags. Reminds me of the old Corps, we used to say Semper Fi. Now it’s SFMF. Semper Fi Mother @#%&. Times they be a changin’.
Thomas, thank you very much. Appreciate that.
Diane, thank you for your kind words. You have a fantastic New Year as well.
This was a great read. I feel like Ben is a kindred spirit. My dad was a hobbyist pilot and used to take me out to fly kites and watch planes take off and land. I miss it a lot!
Well that’s food for thought… great post.
Great piece–makes me reconsider how I feel about those @#$% flags LOL.
Lee another wonderful post! Thank you for a very meaningful story! Have a great holiday season especially a Happy and healthy New Year!