Ron Ridenour

About Ron Ridenour
Short stories



I Put a Spell on You
[September 29, 2011]
(Fourth and last in series Rediscovering America)

“See Something Say Something
Together We Keep the System Safe”

So read the video message on a large screen at the train station. The US Flag stood guard. If you see something that could be associated with “terrorism” notify authorities. Several cops watched the preponderance of black Usamericans rushing about. Could one of them be a terrorist?

Nina Simone flashed into my consciousness. She was singing Jay Hawkins famous song.

I put a spell on you
Because you’re mine

[American flag says to its citizens, I thought.]

So, the flags everywhere are there to protect us from the terrorists, as well as to protect “the system”. Long Live Capitalism! Profit! Private Property!

Finding a seat in a “quiet car” was easy enough. The train conductor came through to punch tickets. He bore the flag on his shirt sleeve.

We arrived at Manhattan’s Penn Station a bit late but not as much as conductors had warned. I found a typical lunch counter to appease my appetite. Yeah, it had flags too, and cheap prices for food served on paper plates.

My eyes were drawn to a gigantic orange sign outside, which was flashing 13 digit numbers ticking away the trillions of metric tons of greenhouse gas being emitted into the atmosphere. The Bank of America building also flew some of the largest flags I’d seen. Dave, my friend and colleague, told me this is because B of A, along with Wells Fargo, City Corporation, JP Morgan-Chase and Goldman Sachs are the principle culprits in the financial crash and the ones that got most of the bailout tax dollars. They also have many former CEOs and other money brokers advising their president in the White House and their pentagon. They fly the largest of flags.

Nearby, scores of construction workers sat lined up on tiled railings in front of Madison Square Garden eating fast food lunches. Many of the muscular men had not taken off their safety helmets, some of which had the flag embossed on one side.

Walking down Broadway on my way to where the World Trade Center was under reconstruction, the flag stalked me constantly: BHs and bikinis in a flag design; young men wore T-shirts sporting a flag design on the front. The most reverent had the words “Proud to be an American” under the flag.

Even buses had flags on the sides. I saw a bus inspector on a corner and asked him about that.

“Yeah, that happened after 9/11. You know, to show them we’re patriotic.”
“I’ve heard there are a lot of people who believe that the Bush government had something to do with 9/11,” I suggested. “There seems to be quite a bit of evidence that the government was, at least, lying about many factors and ignored, apparently, many indicators that something was being planned. And then, the politicians claimed there were no planes to protect the skies that day because they were on maneuvers. What do you think?”

The inspector grimaced. “Yeah, I know. You believe that?”

“Well, it’s not just a belief. There’s a lot of evidence…”

“Yeah, I know. No building falls down just like those twin towers did. And then the other building just blown up and crashing down hours later!” He shrugged. “Whatya gonna do?”

Approaching Ground Zero, I saw an ice cream wagon with a sign posted beside a flag: “Suspicion of Terrorism, Call the NYPD.” Instructions listed 12 points or characteristics of the suspected person(s) that one should report. Nearby stood a Mac Donald’s eating place with a big flag stuck onto its front. On the bottom of it were the words: “We Support Our Troops!”

At this moment, at the time of the 10th memorial of the nearly 3,000 killed on September 11, 2001, the United States of America has about two million troops (and civilians) stationed on some 800 bases and other military facilities in 131 countries. These troops and pilots, as well as CIA agents and private mercenaries, are engaged in killing people in many countries. Among them: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Thanks, in part, to the Nobel Peace Prized President.

Am I, are we, to support such wanton murder and Juggernaut military domination simply because we eat hamburgers or because these jingoists are “our boys” and, unfortunately, “our girls” too. Yeah, some of these “girls” even enjoy painfully torturing people.

Of course, at Ground Zero there is no limit to the numbers and sizes of flags. Scores of vendors, too, are selling small flags on sticks, and folios and pamphlets entitled, “Never Forget”.

The original complex of WTC buildings numbered seven. What didn’t collapse or was demolished that day was later demolished, allegedly because of secondary damage caused by the two planes crashing into the twin towers. Reconstruction has been underway since 2006 to replace them with five skyscrapers. “Freedom” will be the tallest building in the western hemisphere at 510 meters, or 1776 feet to symbolize the year the US declared its independence from Great Britain.

On the road to the Catskills

Back at Dave’s we celebrated our old and new alternative media. Dave and John, one of the four founding writers of the thiscantbehappening collective, and I decided to drive across north-eastern Pennsylvania and into New York State where Dave has a summer house at the little folksy town of Fishys Eddie. He and his wife Joyce, a harpsichord playing artist and professor, bought it years ago mainly because it is an old church with pastor house. She uses the church for concerts.

Just before our trip, I took a long walk in Washington State Park, named after General Washington, who led his troops into the wooded area for an encampment, in 1777, on their way to battle at Valley Forge. The park embraces a lovely variety of trees and great bird and wildlife watching. The best view is from a wooden tower placed in an open area where up to 16 raptors can be sighted, including the US national bird predator, the bald eagle.

Apparently, the protective humans who run the park want the birds to know which country they are in. Three US flags are screwed into the top railing. At the bottom of the watch tower are three more stuck into the earth. I turned them upside down.

Driving north from Upper Dublin not only did we see the usual numbers of flags but I saw the absolute largest yet in front of a Toyota car lot. We estimated it to be about four by six meters large on top of a pole about 15 meters high. And, believe it or not, in the next hours I saw other flags close to that size also in front of Japanese-owned car lots: Honda and Nissan. They compete well with B of A and Wells Fargo.

Farther along there was a billboard advertising a “Gun Show”, and there stood good-old napalm body-burning patriotic Dow Chemical. Its colonial style headquarters flew its flag on either side of a large stone with a plaque stating: “UNITED WE STAND”

My alien observation of the American landscape saturated with flags had become a sing-song in the ears of resident Usamericans. “I don’t see them anymore. They are integral to the landscape,” reflected John.

Once at Dave’s summer house, we had a home cooked dinner with appropriate spirits plied from an assortment of plants. Next morning, we took off to the Delaware River to swim and fish. The one store with worms and hooks had a wide display of guns. I waited outside, in order to avoid a verbal crisis. The street was clean yet one shinny little piece of paper glittered into my eyes: a candy wrapper designed as the flag.

We had a great day at the river. The current was rushing so that we had to fight to swim across it. We played at fishing but, as John observed, the equipment was poor. Dave, ever optimistic, fished on while noting that it is not the equipment that the fish bites.

On an invigorating hike after failing to catch our dinner, we climbed into a forest and past a campsite for campers and tents. I swear flags abounded. Some were stuck into trees; others flew on top of campers and tents. Nearby, we found many bullet shells where the patriots practice.

Next day, on the way back to Pennsylvania, we drove off on a side road to where a scrapper smokes eel that he catches in front of his beautifully home-constructed house where the Delaware River rushes by, sometimes flooding his cellar. His main competitor is the bald eagle. And there was one on top of a tall tree overlooking the river and the fish-smoker’s house.

Back on the main road, we saw flags with yellow ribbons in the hope that the “boys” would come home safely. Lodgetown, Pennsylvania outdid all the other townships. On all the 30 to 40 houses flew the same sized flag, about 1X2 meters. And they were screwed into telephone poles too. As we neared Dave’s home, we saw two tall flags standing guard before a graveyard while small ones were stuck into the earth beside townsmen graves.

Just before returning to Denmark, I read the commentaries, “What we think of America” written by 24 non-US writers that Granta magazine published in spring 2002. Many reflected on 9/11. I quote from the late playwright Harold Pinter.

Calling the USA a “rogue state”, he continued:

“Without thought, without pause for reflection, without a moment of doubt, let alone shame—confirmed that it is a fully-fledged, award-winning, gold-plated monster. It has effectively declared war on the world. It knows only one language—bombs and death. ‘And still they smiled and still the horror grew.’”

I spoke soft farewells to the family of four white-tail deer that live mostly on Dave’s large flora covered lot. The mother has a limp. Her mate has stopped stamping his feet when I approach within 20 yards or so. The two fawns are attentive but relaxed too. This family is not alone. There are often rabbits, ground hogs, squirrels, raccoons, even a fox or two, and many colorful species of birds. This is one rare peaceful spot surrounded by, you know what.

At the airport, the flag also was present on the Transport Security Agents shirt sleeves. One even wore a red, white and blue flag tie. You can buy flags there too: three for $35.

I get it! The Bible-thumping fundamentalists, who rule the national psychology, want me to know that I am in the United States of Ass Kicking America. They are behind the doctrine that by waving the stars and stripes they exhibit patriotism and are enforcers of such with the liberty guns, which Usamericans can buy at the corner store.

When I got back to Denmark, striving hard to be US State Number 51, I found a song Dave had recommended to me. Dave, thinking how much I’ve been bit by this flag spell and also being a pretty good amateur guitar player-folk singer, a la 60s-70s, told me I would be pleased to hear “Flag Decal” by song writer John Prine.

But your flag decal won't get you
Into Heaven any more.
They're already overcrowded
From your dirty little war.
Now Jesus don't like killin'
No matter what the reasons for,
And your flag decal won't get you
Into Heaven any more.

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