In a weekly feature on this page, “Walking Tour,” our staff photographer Michael Heller looks for art, humor and captures portraits that define our community at that moment and time.
The scene he came upon this past Monday morning on Millstone Road in Bridgehampton gave Heller enough pause to snap a picture, which is printed in the space at right on our opinion pages in this week’s Sag Harbor Express.
It gave us pause too.
On the edge of a manicured lawn with privet hedges on Millstone Road sat two plastic garbage cans ready for pick-up, and leaning between the dark green containers were a stand of Tiki torches, abandoned after a summer of use. But nestled among the torches were two small, cloth American flags on long thin wooden poles.
Apparently they too were viewed as end-of-the-summer garbage.
It stopped Heller in his tracks.
“I remember thinking it was a photograph that would mark the end of the summer, but then there was also this total disregard there — the flags just tossed in with the rest of the trash,” said Heller.
He wasn’t alone. A half hour later Heller circled back. Someone had removed the flags from the trash pile.
Now granted, these appeared to be the polyester, perhaps “Made in China” American flags handed out at parades and available at local shops as we prepare for Memorial Day and Fourth of July — also a season of recreation for many visiting the East End. It comes to mind that for some people, and whoever bought these particular flags, American imagery and in this case the symbol of our country has been co-opted, becoming merely a decoration or themed party favor, therefore easily tossed out with the trash.
Has the merchandising of the American flag, our national symbol, made pride more accessible or has it been devalued? It’s a question worthy of thought as we say goodbye to summer and move towards the generally reflective season of fall.
And in the meantime, for those looking to properly dispose of their American flags, flag code dictates they be folded properly, and burned. Local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) posts and American Legions also collect flags for proper disposal.