Finding the true meaning in red, white and blue |

Finding the true meaning in red, white and blue

Rich Mayfield

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Certain family matters took me to Boston this past week but political matters have certainly captured my attention.

(Tangent No. 1: I occasionally receive inquiries from correspondents wondering as to “what gives you the right” to express my particular opinions. It seems obvious enough but for those who skipped Civics 101, I suppose I should point them, once again, to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. That’s where I get the right. I receive the privilege from my publisher and editor who continue to invite me to utilize this cherished freedom.)

In any case, some opinions from a westerner stuck in the frigid northeast.

(Tangent No. 2: I live nearly 9,000 feet above sea level, surrounded by mountains and often inundated with snow. But weather conditions in the High Country are the proverbial picnic compared to what these hardened residents endure each winter. For one thing, snow doesn’t melt here. It simply changes to ice and accumulates on the sidewalk. No one walks in Cambridge. You slide, you slip, you careen out of control for terror-filled blocks but no one could call this walking.)

New Hampshire is just around the next ice-covered corner and so television programming in Boston is packed with promises from one candidate or another.

Actually there really are few promises. These advertisements are designed more toward the heart than the head.

Bostonians only get quick glimpses of Howard Dean laughing with friends or Wesley Clark casually conversing from inside one of his new sweaters.

Most effective, I believe, is John Kerry’s footage from his days in Vietnam. In a matter of only a few seconds, we are all reminded, whether we agree with his policies or not, that this is a man who not only had the courage to serve his country but received a myriad of medals doing it.

(Tangent No. 3: I suppose this really isn’t a tangent as it continues the previous line of thought but I can’t help wondering if Kerry’s stellar military record will become more and more important over time. With the world situation becoming more volatile every day, surely folk will gravitate toward someone who has actually been literally under the gun. Of course, Gen. Clark can claim the same but whose going to feel confident about a guy in argyle?)

What if he was wearing a clerical collar? The Catholic bishops of Boston made the front page this week with their unilateral support of a constitutional amendment that defines marriage in very traditional terms.

Somehow, such a parochial and highly partisan addendum to the other 27 amendments seems out of place considering the expansive national vision of all those that preceded it.

(Tangent No. 4: We have to exclude No. 18, of course. This amendment that sought to ban all alcohol from the lower 48 wasn’t visionary but near-sighted. Nevertheless, the lessons we learned from the folly of prohibition might serve us well as we consider the possibility of instilling new and equally prohibitive constitutional sanctions upon our lifestyles.)

I didn’t watch much of the State of the Union address. It’s not that I’m unpatriotic, I’m just becoming more skeptical. Puff pieces, whether they are paid political advertisements on local TV or pompous presentations before Congress, tend to bring out the doubter in me.

(Tangent No. 5: Skepticism is actually a very patriotic action, particularly here in America where the writers of our Constitution seemed to actually welcome it. They certainly didn’t want to prohibit it unlike some highly suspicious folks currently cruising the halls of power. Those who proclaim that criticism is tantamount to treason are the real traitors.)

So close to Harvard, I decided to do a little studying for myself. I designed my own field trip in cultural anthropology and visited a local brewpub just as the AFC championship football game kicked off.

Quite quickly, my hypotheses regarding aberrant behavior transcending both cultural and geographic boundaries was affirmed. The only difference was twofold: Here the natives unleashed their verbal vitriol upon the enemy in a decidedly unique and somewhat nasal accent while in between plays they went back to reading Kirkegaard.

(Tangent No. 6: Not much of a football fan, I will say I particularly appreciate both the color combination and name of the local team here. Given our perilous times both within and without the union, it would be nice to dress up in red, white and blue and exclaim: “I’m on the side of the Patriots!”)

Rich Mayfield writes a

Saturday column for the Summit Daily News. He can be reached at

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