Symbol of Hope

justin - flag

Justin Schroeder, 36, in front of his home in Bozeman, Montana – Image found at Blue Lives Matter website.

When the kid walked up his driveway, Johnny recognized him as Randall Berry, who had moved to Boise with his family from Seattle last month. That didn’t surprise him one bit. Johnny got up from where he was sitting on his front porch as Randall approached. “Evening.”

“I see you still have that symbol of hate flying,” pointing at the American flag mounted to the right of Johnny’s front door.

“I see you had the nerve to back up that threat you made in the anonymous note you had the audacity to tape to my front door.”

“You should have done what I told you to do and gotten rid of the flag. I promised you a fight where you would lose.”

“Take your best shot you motherf-cker.”

Berry aimed a karate swing kick at Johnny’s face, but the Marine ducked, grabbed the leg and twisted. It was over in a few seconds with the attacker on the ground nursing a couple of cracked ribs and what was probably a broken nose.

“You ready to talk?” Johnny was smart enough to stand several paces away from Randall’s prone form just in case the kid had anything left.

“Talk about what?” The new arrival from Washington tried to sit up.

“Stay on your back and I won’t have to hurt you anymore. Did you honestly think that karate shit was going to work? I’ve kicked the asses of guys twice your size, and who knew a hell of a lot more about fighting than you.”

Randall settled back down on the grass in the front yard. “You’re everything that’s dividing this country, you and your hate symbol.”

“That flag, my friend, is what unites us as Americans, no matter who we are or where we from.” Johnny pointed at the flag unashamed.

“It’s a symbol of institutional racism, sexism, and homophobia, and if you rednecks fly it, then you obviously are supporting everything your Nazi leader Trump is doing.”

“Yeah, I saw that in your note. You said that because I have pickup trucks, I must have voted for Trump. That is the most ignorant thing I’ve ever heard someone say, and I’ve known some pretty stupid people in my time.

“It’s a symbol of hopelessness.

“It’s a symbol of hope, and that flag is not coming down tonight, tomorrow, or for as long as I live here, which will probably be the rest of my life.”

“It’s disgusting. I thought people in Boise were better than this.”

“Where the hell do you get your information? This is Idaho. We’re Americans and proud of it. The people living in this city are from just about every place in the world. We’ve had a refugee center here since I can’t remember when, and I work with people from Iraq, Ethiopia, and Syria. We all get along, and you know something else? They’re not only glad to be here, they fly the same flag in front of their homes, too. It’s a symbol of their freedom from oppression.”

“They’ve been brainwashed and exploited.”

“Not by me or anyone I’m aware of. You’re the ony one with a brain full of bad wiring as far as I can tell.”

“Why would they want to live here? In Seattle…”

“Yeah, let’s talk about that. If your liberal ideals and Seattle are so cool, why the hell did you move to Boise?”

“My Dad said it was getting too expensive, and that the cost of living here is a lot better.”

“How old are you?”


“Shit, when I was nineteen, I was serving my country in Afghanistan. I was wounded twice, nearly died once. Your big move was to try to threaten me and knock my head off because I fly the flag. You’re pathetic. Go back to Seattle where you belong.”

“I wish I could. I had to leave all of my friends behind, everything I ever knew.”

“No you didn’t. You’re nineteen. You can leave home anytime you want. Go back to Seattle. Get a job, a place to stay, do what you want, but don’t tell people what to do with their own property, or you’re going to get hurt again.”

Randall’s face twisted in anguish, as if Johnny’s words hurt him more than his fists.

“Look. Stay right there. I’ve got a first aid kit inside. Let me take a look at your nose.”

The boy nodded mutely.

A few minutes later when Johnny came back out, Randall was sitting up, holding his nose to stop the bleeding.

“Popped a bleeder, huh? Now I’m going to try to help you, but if you take another swing at me, I’ll finish the job on you I started, got it?”

Randall nodded again, still pinching his nose which made his right arm go up and down, too.

“Let’s see here. Take your hand away for a sec. Yeah. There. I think it’s stopped. Doesn’t look broken. You got off easy. If the ribs still bother you in a day or so, get them X-rayed.”

Johnny finished cleaning the blood from Randall’s face.

“Why are you helping me?”

“Because I’m not a bad guy, and like I said, I believe in unity. I believe in different people coming together. When I was serving in the Stan, I worked with every kind of human being you could imagine.

“In boot, right on the first day, my DI said he didn’t want to hear any of our racist shit, he didn’t want to hear about straight guys not wanting to shower with gay guys or any of that, and he promised to kick anyone’s ass who mouthed off. We learned real quick that if we were going to survive, the only thing that mattered was that we were all Marines.”

“You know I’m gay.”

“Not until this moment. Is that supposed to make a difference? You expect me to freak out or something?”

“I expected you to hit me again.”

“Why? Because my flag is a symbol of hate? No, it’s not. Without the example of all of the people who have fought and died defending that flag, I would be a much different person than who I am today. What do they call you, anyway? Randall? Randy?”

“Randall’s fine.”

“I’m Johnny. Pleased to meet you, Randall. Welcome to Boise.”

The neighbor’s face lit up with surprise as he shook the Marine’s hand. “Thanks, Johnny.”

“Now let me help you up.”

Randall groaned as he rose, leaning against Johnny.

“You want to come in for a while?”

“I probably shouldn’t. I told my Mom and Dad I’d be out just for a little bit.”

“Well, I’ll help you home. You don’t look too steady on your feet. I’ll give you a ride in my truck, that is if you can stand to be seen in one.” Johnny laughed.

“I guess I could try it out.” Randall smiled and still looked like he only half believed that Johnny could be a Marine, fly the American flag, and still be a good person.

After Randall had settled in the passenger seat and Johnny got in and started the truck up, “Look, the next time you come over to my place, why don’t we sit down over a couple of cups of coffee and talk things over. It’ll hurt a lot less.”

“I’ll have to think that over for a bit. I mean, this didn’t turn out at all like I expected.”

“I’m not such a big racist, homophobic son of a bitch after all, huh?”

They shared another laugh, but Randall’s was tentative.

“I’ll get you home. You can tell your parents anything you want, but remember, I was defending myself, and you were in my yard.”

“I just want to get past that part, okay?”

Johnny pulled out of the driveway, and turned toward where Randall’s house was at the end of the block. “That’s just fine by me, neighbor. That’s just fine by me.”

I wrote this for Saturday Mix – Opposing Forces, 21 July 2018 hosted at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie.

The idea is to take two pairs of opposing words and use them in a poem, short story, or other creative work. They are:

  • unite and divide
  • hope and hopeless

I bolded those words in the body of my tale so the reader could pick them out easily.

I based this story very loosely on a story and video called VIDEO: Neighbor Demands Veteran Remove ‘Symbol Of Hate,’ Doesn’t Go Over Well.

The facts of what I wrote are basically true, except the person flying the flag is an Air Force vet living in Bozeman, Montana (pictured above). He did find a note on his door the day of July 12th of this year referring to his flag as a “symbol of hate.”

You can read the story and watch the video to get the full details, but I have no idea if anyone showed up at the end of the day to try to remove Justin Schroeder’s flag. I hope not, because he didn’t sound like he was going to put up with whoever wrote the note.

61 thoughts on “Symbol of Hope

  1. Lol. I like his response of moving the flag higher… so anyone could notice someone walking with a ladder.

    We have a neighbor who flies a flag constantly and is anti-government (you know, a “patriot” genius) and all that. We were annoyed that although he’s a veteran (both of the services [I forget which one, but it involved patronising Asian white houses (auto-correct mistake for whore houses or human trafficking rackets)] and of the motorcycle gang Hell’s Angels), he didn’t know how to properly fly the flag; it was a bit tattered, and much of the time it would hang half loose and untethered (sloppy), and it had no light for nighttime. So we spoke to him.


      • That occurred to my mind after posting, that it might sound like that. At least that would be thought through with some kind of meaningful application. But no; he just let it flop around.


    • It’s rather different commenting to someone that they should respect the flag they display by caring for it properly or saying they should not display it at all.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Not only a veteran should know how properly to care for and display a flag, but even a lowly Cub Scout is thus trained (at least we were in my day). However, we were taught always to lower the flag at sunset, fold it carefully in a prescribed manner, and store it indoors away from the night’s humidity, and to hoist it again in the morning. I can see, however, the night-time lighting requirement, barring any “rockets red glare”, if the flag is to survive the night outside untended. And perhaps the etiquette has changed somewhat, as flag materials have become more durable and stain-resistant (e.g., rip-stop nylon and even stronger synthetic materials rather than mere cotton).

        As I recall some 50-60 years ago, the personalized display of flags was not a common feature in my neck-o’-th’-woods in Philadelphia, PA (the Betsy Ross heritage notwithstanding). They tended to be displayed rather in public spaces, where appointed personnel attended to them morning and evening. I do recall personal flags permanently attached to wooden sticks, often stuck into the ground alongside a walkway on Flag Day or the Fourth of July — or sometimes mounted in a special fixture on an outside wall — but these also were removed by sunset and stored away for the next such occasion. I suppose, however, that circumstances have changed such that displaying the flag has had to become a more personalized, overt, and deliberate decision rather than a common feature of everyday public culture.

        Now, Marleen mentioned the confederate flag. Displaying *that* flag is a rather different sort of political statement, because it represents specifically a set of values that not only threatened to tear the country asunder, but it represents rebellion against the legitimate government of the *United* States and its “Union Jack” flag that intentionally symbolizes unity. Isn’t it odd that anyone should ignore that meaning, as established in some very bloody history, in order to interpret the legitimate Union Jack flag as representing “intolerance”? It is true, though, that it *does* represent a stance against some views that truly were not to be tolerated and which had to be very forcibly resisted. It seems to me that a similar civil war is impending due to the present cultural dissonance whose tensions remain to be sorted out.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. There is intolerance and hatred from both sides of the aisle these days. Of course, I think our current POTUS has done much to fan those flames, but that’s just me. I remember back in the 60s, in my long-haired hippie days, when the mantra of those on “patriotic American” on the far right was “America, love it or leave it,” and the flag was a symbol of intolerance.


    • I think that we can all choose to be tolerant or intolerant regardless of who happens to be sitting in the Oval Office. I think Trump is being used as an excuse by folks on both sides of the aisle to justify their personal decisions and behavior. The guy is a self-made lightning rod, but that doesn’t mean people have the right to lose control of themselves because of it. Presidents are temporary (unlike members of Congress, or so it seems), but our integrity or lack thereof, defines us for a lifetime.

      Liked by 2 people

      • True, but I believe that Trump has encouraged and legitimized those who used to be on the fringes to come out from under their rocks and wear their hate and intolerance out in the open under the MAGA banner. Hate crimes have risen substantially since Trump was elected. I don’t think that’s just coincidental.


      • It seems that Google agrees with you, and social media has allowed extremists on both the left and the right to find each other and basically go ape shit.

        Yes, I see your point that extremist conservative outliers feel emboldened to express racist/sexist/and so on opinions as well as actions, but this thing that’s been called “Trump Derangement Syndrome” has had the same effect on the extreme lefists. Yesterday, I posted an essay called When Social Media Becomes a Lynch Mob about the whole Mark Duplass and Ben Shapiro mess, adding the fallout it had on James Gunn. If you haven’t read it, take a look.

        While Trump’s “shoot from the hip,” no filter comments as well as his behavior may have emboldened haters and hate groups on the right, it seems that because it’s so popular to hate Trump, nearly any act someone calls “resistance,” no matter how verbally or even physically violent, is justified because, after all, it’s against Trump. The actual story (which I fact checked) that’s the basis for this fictional tale is a mild example, as is my “lynch mob” commentary. In the end, regardless of Trump, people are still responsible for their actions and their consequences.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I may have mentioned this before, but it seems because much of what Trump says and does is so outrageous (really, he’s a total diva), that it seems to give license to people to behave exactly in the same way, and I mean people on both sides of the aisle. I do agree that it seems worse than it ever has been, but racial tensions magnified considerably during the Obama administration. This was the opposite than what I expected, since Obama was ideally placed to unite us as Americans. The pyre had already been built and fueled by the time Trump was elected. All Trump had to do was light it, which unfortunately, he did.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, this neighbor of mine is a Trump fan. So, his anti-government tendencies are very pro authoritarian (cult of personality style) and basically anarchist (without him knowing it via thinking it through) and totalitarian at the same time. Usually, if someone has the good sense not to fly a “confederate flag” too, I don’t worry. We are friendly with this couple, so we were over there one day as the wife was explaining how her son said to her, “Mom, I don’t think you understand what that [confederate] flag means.” (Poor, naive kid. Can’t imagine his parents’ real views.) She said to us (and him), “Nooo… I know what it means.”

      I’ve heard people recently say that people who question anything can leave, Fandango.

      Liked by 1 person

      • “Lord Trump”? Somehow that’s not a picture I would ever have drawn from the current turmoil. I seem to recall an attitude that Obama was beyond question or challenge, not so long ago, despite those who certainly wished to do so.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Not even close. Obama’s had a lot of enemies, but only the most radical, far-right loonies ever thought he was trying to destroy our democracy or was disloyal to our country. Trump, who would like nothing more that to be an all-powerful King and/or president for life, as well as the head of the Trump dynasty, demonstrates that every day.


      • Radical far-right loonies? I suppose that depends on what one thinks of the Alinsky playbook that Obama seemed to follow. If one’s analysis concludes that such views and practices are contrary to or destructive of the American liberties cherished by the Founding Fathers (and they are), one can only conclude that Obama was indeed attempting to destroy that vision and implementation of America. And whatever gives you the idea that Trump has even the slightest thought of acting outside the constraints of the American electoral term system? He is used to running corporations, and thus there are certainly frustrations with trying to run a country that is not as flexible as a corporation can be. Government is notably inefficient at trying to do things that are done easily and efficiently by financial necessity in the business and private spheres. But if anything, Trump wants government reduced and the private sector increased, which is also how America operated better in an earlier era.


      • “He is used to running corporations….” You forgot to add that he is used to running corporation *into the ground*, which is what he’s trying to do to our democracy.


      • Trump didn’t build his successful financial empire by “running corporations into the ground”. On the contrary, he must be credited with a canny sense of what makes a corporation workable. We may reasonably expect a similar perspicacity about his governmental administration; and a similar ruthlessness toward things that do not work — such as certain policies from previous administrations on both sides of the aisle. Taking down what doesn’t work is not running democracy into the ground, but rather it is a necessary precursor to replacing faulty policies with something better.

        Liked by 1 person

      • So you believe that reversing environmental protections that attempt to keep the air we breath clean and the water we drink pure, rolling back our access to healthcare, cutting back on Social Security and Medicare, stepping all over women’s reproductive rights, rolling back LGBT rights, stoking racism, nationalism, xenophobia, and misogyny, and abandoning our allies and embracing our adversaries will lead to something better?


      • I’m going to dismiss all of the items in your list as hysterical and inaccurate leftist talking points that obscure the issues of what works and what does not, and obscure the rational bases whereby something may be deemed moral or immoral. Yes, the end result of revisiting and perhaps slaughtering all these sacred cows may be expected to be something better.

        Liked by 1 person

      • And, of course, there are Trump University, Trump Steaks, Trump Taj Mahal, other Trump casinos, several other Trump hotels and resort. All these bankruptcies and business failures don’t seem to demonstrate a “canny sense of what makes a corporation workable.”

        Liked by 1 person

      • Are you trying to deny that Trump built a successful and profitable financial empire? The aggregate result has been wildly successful, so it means nothing for you to point to investments that did not fare as well.


      • Actually, as I recall, former President Jimmy Carter said that anyone objecting to then President Obama’s policies was automatically a racist, and Hillary Clinton and others suggested those opposing her were doing so because they were sexist, as if there were no other basis for disagreeing with either one. All Presidents are criticized for their policies. Why should Obama and Trump (or Clinton if she had been elected) be any different?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, of course I see the differences. He doesn’t have a filter and says and does exactly whatever pops into his head. The major difference seems to be that he absolutely doesn’t care about his reputation, getting re-elected, or anything else. That frees him to behave in any outrageous manner he desires, just as if running the country were like being on a reality TV show. What I don’t see him having the ability to make himself “dictator for life.” I know Reagan joked about changing the laws so he’d get a third term, and I recall some people wanting to change the laws so Obama could continue being POTUS, but that didn’t happen.

        Please don’t think I’m defending Trump, but I just don’t fear him. You and I have been around long enough to know that no matter how disastrous events seem, they also pass away, and the country and world moves on to something else.

        That said, as a Christian, I do believe this age is finite and that eventually there will be another world war, a final one, and then a benevolent and powerful King will wage war, save Israel, and defeat all of the nations who went up against her. After that, the King will rule Israel, the rest of the world will become vassal states, and we will have peace (I’m compressing an awful lot of theology into a tiny space and it’s a lot more complicated than that). So who knows? Maybe Trump’s melodramatic behavior is part of all that, or maybe it’s just four years of being led by an attention seeking narcissist.

        I know you don’t share my beliefs and that’s fine. I’m just explaining why I don’t see Trump as such a threat. He isn’t nearly as powerful as you make him out to be, and I can’t imagine any reality where he doesn’t end up out of office after his four years are up. Neither Democrats nor (most) Republican’s like him, and he’s so dramatic, that moderates who might otherwise vote for a reasonable Republican, will flock to whoever the Dems nominate in 2020 (and though you won’t agree with this either, I’m so glad it [probably] won’t be Hillary). Then the pendulum will swing once again, and conservatives will complain about the liberal President. And so it goes.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I hope you’re right and I appreciate your faith that he will be a one-term president, but I’m not so sure. I know it sounds trite, but that’s what many in Germany thought after Hitler was elected to lead their country. I am not so sure that he will give up power that easily. He will declare any outcome that doesn’t re-elect him to be rigged and will encourage his most avid supporters to take up arms on his behalf. Maybe that’s a nightmare scenario, but I’ve been having a lot of nightmares lately. Let me repeat, I hope you are right.


      • Well, if you persist in trying to view Trump’s presidency through a faulty lens of Hitler’s Germany, of course you’ll give yourself unnecessary nightmares. I recall some folks doing the same with Obama when he first started out. Your view of President Trump is laden with fictional, almost cartoonish, false expectations. I can’t yet assess how seriously you are afflicted, but you are certainly showing symptoms associated with the malady called TDS.


      • It’s Trump’s presidency that “is laden with fictional, almost cartoonish, false expectations.” And if you believe that I am “afflicted” and are going to echo Rand Paul’s Trump Derangement System “diagnosis,” then I am not sure there is much point in continuing this discussion.


      • According to, for the week of July 9-15, Trump’s approval rating is only 43%, and frankly, I’m surprised it’s that high. From January 20, 2017 to the present, it’s a mere 39%. His highest weekly average is 45%, and his lowest is 35%. In order for him to be re-elected, let along declare himself “dictator for life,” it would have to be a lot higher.

        Frankly, if it were possible, I’m sure the GOP would like to have a different candidate in play for 2020, because they’re taking quite a beating because of Trump.

        Oh, interestingly enough, Barack Obama’s approval rating for July of his second year (where Trump is now) was 46%, while George W. Bush’s was 72%, and Bill Clinton’s was 43%.

        This is really a fascinating site. Trump’s approval rating for last week broken down by party is Republicans: 90%, Independents (which is how I identify): 38%, and Democrats: 8%.

        Actually, as I write this, and continue reading the poll results, I am really surprised Trump is doing so well, even among Republicans.

        All that said, I think a comparison between Trump and Hitler is a bit of a stretch. As World War II progressed, even Hitler’s own Generals tried to assassinate him, and he did kill 6 million Jews not to mention 5 million other “undesirables” such as gays, gypsies, mentally ill people, Catholic Priests, and even identical twins (Mengele was fascinated by them and liked to experiment)

        As I understand it, both Democrats and Republicans are winding up their fund raising machines for the mid-term elections, and if Trump’s actions result in the GOP losing significant ground, the second half of Trump’s presidency might look a bit different than the first.

        All I can say is hold on because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Side note: My parents and I were on a summer vacation (somewhere in the seventies) when we traded in our Volkswagen bug for a little yellow Datsun pickup — in Bozeman, Montana.


    • Was that because the bug had run out of steam; or did the little pickup come equipped with a cap that transformed it into a more roomy station-wagon sort of affair? I presume the trade-in had nothing to do with politics, because both German and Japanese competitors to American automobiles were probably equally subject to any potential resentment. And since an auto dealer in Bozeman was obviously not averse to dealing in foreign models in that era, I suppose it may be fair to infer that your mention of the location merely represents just a curiously coincidental factoid rather than any sort of political observation.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yep; “curiously coincidental factoid” and pleasant memory. We enjoyed the truck… which did have a cap. I did also miss the bug, though. As far as I recal, it was still running fine.


    • You would condemn this character merely for continuing to live with his parents beyond some arbitrary age? At 19, he has not yet reached the adult age of 21, and may yet need family support while attending some sort of specialized training or apprenticeship (this one didn’t seem headed for university). I, myself, attended university directly after high school, and lived with my parents until shortly before getting married after that. I suppose a lot depends upon the quality of the parents and the home environment.


      • Y’know, Kenneth, you just expressed a term or phrase that I find interesting, because I can’t imagine any certain mechanism whereby it may have entered American slang vocabulary. “Boo”, as a negative implicator, seems to me likely to have derived from the Chinese expression “Bu yao” (literally, “not wanted”) or “Bu sher” (not so; untrue). I suppose it might somehow have been picked up by American soldiers during the Vietnam conflict era. I find it interesting also to consider the cognate between the Chinese “bu” and the French “faux”, as in “faux pas” (something not to be done), or “faux” as in “fake”, “imitation”, “not real”. There’s a curious symmetry of negativity that they share along with their phonetic similarity.

        Liked by 1 person

    • This part is fiction and not related to the actual events upon which this story is based. I wanted to give the “aggressor” some slack by being young, inexperienced, and out of his element. It also gives him room to grow.


  4. While the phrase “love it or leave it” might seem intolerant, upon further reflection it is really an encouragement to be decisive about exercising American liberty. Its pithy expression doesn’t, however, specify exactly what aspects one might love or leave. Of course, what one might love another might wish to decry. At issue may be whether a given issue reflects values intrinsic to the foundational values that contributed to the success of the American experiment in liberty. If, at present, the arguments are more heated and less tolerant than ever before (and I’m not entirely convinced that isn’t merely an artifact of social media), we might well investigate the mix of ideas and values that are so in conflict, in order to analyze how or if they fit with classic American ideal or whether they are in fact detrimental to the pursuit of personal well-being that the Declaration called “happiness”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with you about the social media aspects of the current expressions of angst on both sides of the aisle. Since we now can instantaneously communicate with thousands or more on Facebook and twitter, human nature being what it is, people response viscerally rather than thinking through what they are trying to express. I believe once that “habit” is internalized, such behavior begins to spill over into real life, such as the “neighbor” in my story (based on actual events) having the nerve to write such a note and tape it on the fellow’s front door. Of course, it was written anonymously, and I can find no evidence in my search of the news, that the person in question actually showed up at the flag flier’s door that evening or at any other time.


    • James said: Actually, as I recall, former President Jimmy Carter said that anyone objecting to then President Obama’s policies was automatically a racist, and Hillary Clinton and others suggested those opposing her were doing so because they were sexist, as if there were no other basis for disagreeing with either one. ….

      Sexism is displayed toward Hillary Clinton, but that’s not why she lost. She did overplay the concept, it was tiring to hear… as was the idea that it was simply time to have a woman president (said overplaying possibly being part of the reason she lost and possibly not). As for what Jimmy Carter said concerning the people who hated Obama, your recollection is incorrect, but that is likely due to your sources.


  5. I take it the link is where we find people who aren’t impressed that a guy who inherited millions is later found to have millions or the things he ended up with from the millions … or from the visibility (of going down in flames) and mob money … golf courses. Oh, and an immigrant wife — whom he trolls about getting a facelift and having her papers exposed — in a pre-nup universe where wives and other women are paid as little as possible to go away. (Outstanding figurehead that he is.)


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