Milwaukee is a mysterious town. It is different from other cities in many regards: population origins, historic manufacturing, unionized, and generally liberally minded. This assessment omits the current reputation of Milwaukee as America's "most segregated city." When I was posting up with the flag, it was easy to see the love Milwaukeens have for their country and fellow Americans, but when the flag was left alone, a different, uglier attitude was expressed. Many thanks to my homie, Katerina, for the gracious accommodations in your lovely town.
The time has come to understand what is really being said when people write certain things on the flag. But first, let me give you a completely amateur observational demographic breakdown of project participation. Overall I suspect I get 3 people out of 10 engage me when I inquire "How they feel about America?" Of those participating the majority are women, and especially minority women. Minorities of both genders participate at a higher percentage than the majority overall. The least willing to participate in American Expressions is the white, adult, male, who most often completely ignore my invitation to participate. When I do get this demographic to join in, there is a good chance they will write "Don't Tread on Me." (This occurred repeatedly in Milwaukee) Other responses by this demographic are often political endorsement for a certain orange-tinted real-estate mogul. By my estimation the WAM group has a 50% defensive response when he expresses his thoughts about America. What has got the Man so down about America?
Why does the top of the socioeconomic pyramid, of the entire world, feel so threatened? Is this repressed guilt for the sins of our fathers, or does it go deeper? Could this be a new neurosis caused by the abundant affluence of a mutating middle class? Or is it a product of our capitalistic consumer society where boys flake about throughout youth and don't have the cultural rituals that teach and validate adulthood, what it means to "be a man"? Ultimately when someone says "Don't tread on me," it comes from a place of fear, a deep seeded insecurity that exposes the causations of toxic masculinity. They want to tell everyone to "FUCK OFF" because "I'M THE MAN" (see the archetype of male characters in movies & video games) By default, they were born into the top of the pyramid and knowing no other position have little ability for change (full disclosure: I am born into the same pyramid peak). The expansion of constitutional fulfillment for all people comes at a cost to them, which is then interpreted as a threat and reacted to with some sort of rationalization: "I pulled myself up by my bootstraps" or "I wasn't given anything" or "If I was in charge..." We proclaim we are the home of the brave, but somewhere in the hearts of these true blooded, white, American males bravery has been contorted. Bravery has decayed into an embroidered logo on a camouflage hat, something we put on for everybody to see, something we wear to cover our fear that we are not brave. We are scared. We hide behind the notions of knowing "what is right" and do so at the expense of others' respect and liberty. We are scared. We act as if the 2nd Amendment is more important than all the rest, not because of tyranny of a rampant government, but because we are afraid of the unforeseen, unprepared future (which we have zero control over). We are scared because we can't handle the truth. The truth is we only have a relationship with hate, and do not know love. Sure, "I love my family, and I love my God, and I love my country, but after that! fuck all y'all" You fear being tread on because you cannot grasp the notion that we're all in this together. Who do you think you are? Writing shit like this on our flag?
Seeing this we're compelled to examine the 1st Amendment right to express this nastiness openly. In doing so we default to tolerance, a shrug, and invoke our debilitating "It is what it is" mentality. Fuck that. Tolerance is the skin of hatred and we can no longer afford to continually allow our society to be consumed by regressive thinking. We want to be great? We proclaim ourselves as being the best country in the world? We bask in uber machismo of bravery, yet we still harbor an insecure fear of being powerlessness and that fear is in distinct contrast to our social programming as adult, white & male. Wanna be a man? Be brave, stand up against injustice. Be brave, use your commonsense. Be brave, lead with trust instead of suspicion. Be brave enough to show respect to everyone, all people. Because when you don't, you simply reek of fear and privilege. You are the MAN. Be brave and act like it.