The Glorious Paradox that is America

The news is even better here. My father-in-law had his breathing tube removed and is breathing on his own, now. Erin and Wendy and I were in to see him and he was able to recognize us and talk for a short while. He's very, very tired, as you would expect, and the nurses have been very, very firm that he's not to overexert himself. My father-in-law, true to form, has needed reminding on this day.

I have not been sleeping well, here, a combination of a bad mattress at our hotel and a significant allergy attack that nailed me at the hospital yesterday afternoon and continued unabated overnight. Turned me into something of a zombie this morning. Two cups of coffee and allergy medicine with a nasal decongestant has returned me to (nearly) normal. Which is good, because with all of the sneezing I was doing in the waiting room, I have expected Infectious Disease Control to descend on me with a net. I did have a couple of nurses ask me if I was okay.

Earlier this afternoon, I took a walk around the neighbourhood around the St. Mary's branch of the Mayo Clinic. The weather is pretty good here, and it's quite pleasant now that I can breathe. I can't help but notice, in this middle class neighbourhood, the number of American flags that have a significant display on the front lawns of this city. Not unusual, I guess; even Canadians wave their flags occasionally, but they tend to do so from behind the front windows. The reason I bring this up is because it brings back a memory from 1999.

After attending Wendy and Lars' wedding at Ames, Iowa, Erin and I went with my father-in-law and his wife Judy back to Lincoln, Nebraska. On the way, we stopped in Omaha to attend a baseball game between the Pacific Coast League's Omaha Golden Spikes and the Albaquerque Dukes. The reason we (and 25,000 people) were there was not for the game itself (which started two hours late thanks to the Omaha team being caught on a delayed flight from St. Paul), but for the firework's display afterward. It was the fourth of July.

Everybody and their brother was there to see "the biggest fireworks display between Chicago and Denver". People were camped out on lawns, the stadium was full and parking, of course, was at a premium. Wendell drove around the local neighbourhood for about twenty minutes, looking for a space, before finally settling upon a spot about a twenty minute walk from the stadium. The area was residential, and so many people were out on their lawns and their porches, holding Independence Day parties. There were flags everywhere. It all looked like everybody was having a good time.

Except for one man, who had planted at the front of the driveway of his overgrown front yard the Confederate Battle Flag. He was in his late twenties, clean shaven, had on cowboy boots, I think, and jeans, and he was sitting right under his flag, one boot on a fence post, his arms folded, and an expression on his face that seemed to say "go ahead, make me take down this flag. I dare you! I double dare you! I triple dawg dare you!" There were no firearms in sight, but I certainly wasn't about to challenge him.

I was the only one who noticed this. I asked Wendell, who was busy driving, whether it was good etiquette to fly the Confederate battle flag during the fourth of July and he said 'no'. But there were no further comments, and the moment was allowed to stick in my memory.


None of that in Rochester, Minnesota. A couple of stars and stripes waving over well manicured lawns. A couple of nice gardens. And friendly people everywhere.

Welcome to America.

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