Last year I expressed great frustration with corporations who have no compunctions hoisting their own profit-tool logos on the same flag poles as American Flags. And they choose to do this on America’s most holy of civic holidays. I first noticed this crass display last year at the biggest Fourth of July celebration in Fair St. Louis.
What’s the problem with allowing corporate logos to flap in the wind right next to Old Glory? I can’t think of a bigger insult to the People of the United States at a time when big money, mostly corporate money, has essentially purchased Congress, divesting ordinary people of the ability to run their own country. If there is anything that the Fourth of July is supposed to represent it is the notion that the governed should be self-governed (but do also check out this excellent recent article by Mark Tiedemann, who considers what it really means to be patriotic).
Well, the flagpole conflation of corporate money and political power is back again. You can see it in a long row of flagpoles in front of the Gateway Arch. I saw this again yesterday and today and I cursed it. This is one of the biggest things wrong with American today that more people are not outraged enough to revolt when seeing the ubiquitous signs of corporate corruption of the American government. Yesterday I cursed this display and had a fantasy that a huge angry Godzilla would appear and swat away these corporate logos. After all, this should a pure celebration of the American experiment (whether most people think much about the meaning of the Fourth of July is a topic for another post someday).
Well, I sort of got my wish tonight. The huge corporate-financed fireworks display was supposed to begin at 9:20 pm tonight, but storms started rolling through downtown St. Louis at 9 pm. I happened to be attending an indoor function at a downtown hotel when we heard that the fireworks were cancelled, but we had already been witness to lightning repeatedly striking the huge stainless steel arch (or coming close to striking it). When we heard that the fireworks display was cancelled, some of the people I was with expressed disappointment. I was still looking out the window when I heard about the cancellation, and I immediately and repeatedly stated, “This is better than fireworks.”
My statement was true on at least two levels. First of all, we get too accustomed to the familiar. If the moon appeared only once each year, we would have huge holidays and elaborate ceremonies dedicated to the Appearance of the Moon. The same thing goes for colorful sunsets like the incredibly vivid ones you can see in these images I captured last year. And the same thing goes for lightning and thunder. Tonight’s storm was an incredible spectacle (I captured a few photos; I realize that that there are some focus issues on some of these (I was shooting out of a window), but you’ll get the idea). This was a display that, in many ways, exposes the human fireworks as relatively puny and very much artificial. The lightning storm was a wholly natural display that would have been humbling to all who watched, except that we are too used to such storms.
Second, this lightning was better than fireworks in that the pro-democracy gods took back the night. Those gods said NO to the corporate graffiti that polluted what should have been a celebration by the people and for the people. This storm was the moral equivalent of Jesus chasing the money-changers from the temple. These pro-democracy gods made the following bold statement tonight, at least in my imagination:
You will not have a corporate-financed spectacle tonight. We will piss on your corporate flags tonight, and you will not take credit for the grand display that will follow. Instead, we will stage an all-natural celebration of the roots of Democracy. and tonight’s event will be owned by everyone equally.