This July 4th, Hoist the Flag of Liberty

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exposure to John Ashcroft on CNN last week prompted me to do a little
late spring cleaning. My kind of "cleaning" occurs
when I'm on a mission to find a specific something in the
house. One time, it was an old Velvet Underground CD I had to find
right away because I'd just heard "Sweet Jane"
on a radio outside Starbucks. And I was sure it was in one of 23
sealed boxes stored in my garage since we moved three years ago.

latest search was for my Gadsden flag. That's the brilliant yellow
flag from the American Revolution with the coiled rattler on it,
the words "Don't Tread On Me" stitched at the bottom.
Truthfully, nothing's actually stitched on my flag. The snake
and words are screened onto flammable polyester. I paid seven bucks
for it at a gun show in 1995, shortly after Clinton began reaping
political profit from Oklahoma City. It was an impulse buy. I thought
it was high time I displayed that flag.

last week, listening to the Attorney General blather about anti-terrorism
preparations for our first post-9/11 Fourth of July, I felt compelled
to haul out the Gadsden banner again. In case you're curious, I
finally found it stashed in a grocery sack behind the old typewriter
in the back of my office closet.

our town, hundreds of us traditionally lug our picnic hampers, wineglasses,
and illegal fireworks to the beach on Independence Day. What we
call the Big Stuff, the "official," often disappointing
show sanctioned by the city fathers, launches from the pier about
9:00 p.m. An hour earlier, the prohibited pyrotechnics – you
might call it the People's Stuff – begin lighting up the sky
spectacularly along the water's edge for a couple of miles south.

too surprising, the beach is always festooned with U.S. flags fluttering
beside the bonfires and barbecues. This year, I expect I'll see
more of them than ever.

my little party won't fly Old Glory this summer. Instead,
in response to the political profit Bush, Ashcroft, Daschle, and
the rest of our masters now reap from last September, we'll hoist
my polyester Gadsden flag, named for its designer, "the Sam
Adams of South Carolina," radical-liberal Son of Liberty Christopher
Gadsden. What better time than this July 4th – while FBI sentinels
comb library records for the reading patterns of "suspicious"
patrons – to let the old rattlesnake banner snap loudly at
our beach site?

says folks like us "give ammunition to America's enemies"
when we "scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty."
He told the Senate Judiciary Committee last year that acts of dissent
may "erode our national unity and diminish our resolve."

tough beans. When politicians openly whittle away the Bill of Rights
with bogus promises of security, you should expect some dissent.
When the power elite pushes through over-reaching legislation like
the USA Patriot Act, and creates ominous cabinet-level Homeland
Security posts, and redefines "domestic terrorism" with
broader and broader brushstrokes, you should expect a raised eyebrow
here and there – or at least a raised Gadsden flag.

not being very patriotic," a friend remarked when I told him
my plan.

course, he's confusing love of America with love of its government.
A common mistake nowadays. Even Clinton publicly made it a few years
ago, intentionally or not. Like many, my friend has no historical
grounding. He thinks July 4th celebrates the U.S. Constitution,
not the treasonous Declaration of Independence. His idea of patriotism
is honoring our present-day King Georges, not the magnificent traitors
from 1776, like Sam Adams, Joseph Warren, John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson,
Patrick Henry and, yes, Christopher Gadsden.

can be sure John Ashcroft knows what the Fourth of July is really
about. He's just hoping most Americans don't.

are a few days left before July 4th. Why not read Tom Paine's Common
, then pass it on to a friend? Rent "The
," the stirring Mel Gibson movie from two years
ago, and watch it with your family and neighbors. Recommend
to your co-workers.

if you can get your hands on one, lift high the Gadsden flag. "Don't
Tread On Me." That's the real spirit of Independence

29, 2002

Conger [send him mail] is a
marketing consultant and writer living on California's central coast.

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