The Flipped Lid: What does snow have to do with patriotism?

Jan 2, 2007 at 9:23 pm
If you think good things are on their way
And the world will improve, don’t hold your breath.
Just go to the graveyard and ask around.
—Mark Strand from “Some Last Words”

My husband and I recently saw Clint Eastwood’s War World II battle of Iwo Jima film, “Flags of Our Fathers.” Toward the film’s conclusion, the narrator asserts that more than fighting for their country, soldiers fought for each other, loyal to their friends and fellow military brothers. This insight may not cause anyone who has served or is serving in the military much pause. This insight may not even make grenade-like impact on civilians with no military connections. For me, that war and fighting could be more about individual loyalties and motivations rather than national ones, hit a personal political target dead on.

The few people I know who have served refer most affectionately to war buddies, not to an abstract meta-narrative of power, domination or liberty associated with the United States. As Kris and I left Village 8 Theatres, carrying our empty soda cans, I began reflecting on this.
The soda cans got the best of me, though, and my thoughts turned to my on-again, off-again, on-again habit of carrying empty soda bottles and cans home from sneaking them into theaters. Feeling hypocritical and crappy for all the times I threw bottles and cans away, another film came to mind: Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.” “Truth” suggests 10 simple things to reduce carbon dioxide omissions, and recycling is among them. If you care to know the nine other “things,” visit

I thought about “An Inconvenient Truth” and global warming and how we’re probably pretty much screwed because, according to the film, major ice fields are breaking up and melting. If melting continues, global sea levels could raise by 20 feet, displacing about a thousand billion truckloads of people. Major population displacement lists among dozens of other likely horrific outcomes. However, personal considerations about global warming lead me to lament the most important, devastating and unbelievably depressing factor manifesting in our very own Louisvillian back yards. Or what’s not manifesting in them: snow.

I’m a big proponent of snow. Sure, I’m still a third-grader hoping to get out of a day of school some winter morn. Snow looks pretty, too (at least for about half a second). Snow symbolizes renewal. It’s magical and all that. And there’s snuggly warmth snow sex. Later in life there are children playing in snow that were conceived while snow sex happened. But mostly, I dig that if enough snow falls, life slows way the heck down. People become primal, even. Normally reasonable people purchase eight gallons of milk, 15 loaves of bread and 30 pounds of hot chocolate mix. Once the grocery frenzy subsides, most of us stay in. We settle down into movies, books, video games, naps and discussions we might never engage in under snowless conditions.
Most of us have camped, vacationed or traveled during which basic living is stripped to eating, sleeping and being. When Louisville gets enough snow, similar conditions force themselves upon us. Days become ripe for reflection, quietness and living for its own sake. I miss those days and vow to Al Gore, god of all things environmentally good, that for the sake of Louisville snow fall, I will forevermore recycle bottles and cans. Ohio Valley temperatures need to drop, dang it!

And the topic of cold weather brings me right back to “Flags of our Fathers.” With more snow days, or at least slowed down days, some of us might be tempted to slow down a bit more on other days — slow enough that we might feel less attracted to patriotic rhetoric couched in about as much reflective, critical thinking as Louisville has been in snow lately. With nature’s enforced down time, we might find ourselves thinking more deeply. We might feel less satisfied with fast-food patriotism. We might come to the conclusion that, though most young people enter military service with the U.S. of A. in mind, battling soldiers fight for each other. Personal relationships help fuel our survival instincts. If we could slow down long enough to reconsider our “global” neighbors truly as such, we might feel less inclined to digest a super-sized, quickie value meal of happy violence.   

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