I had just settled in on a flat rock atop North Mountain and bitten in to a turkey sandwich when a man marched up from the steep National Trail hoisting an American flag. It was a strange sight to see, even in this urban wilderness of Phoenix.
He said his name was Larry, and described himself as the Flag Man. He was tanned and trim. Even in what appeared to be his 50s, he looked in excellent shape and boasted of running a recent marathon.
Larry said he and a friend tended to three planted American flags on peaks in Glendale’s Thunderbird Park a dozen miles miles or so to the northwest. That was news to me. The last time I hiked in Thunderbird there were only two flags. So the virus of “patriotism” is apparently metastasizing.
I did not tell the Flag Man of the Mountains that I disliked his idea of being a patriot, that I thought it actually unAmerican to put up unauthroized flags atop public parks. And I also think it a desecration of Nature. Soon Larry and his flag were off but not gone. I later saw him several times clambering the summit trail along with his flag.
It should be noted that, in my experience, North Mountain is hiked predominantly by Hispanics, the dark-skinned race so despised by right-wing white people who fear “the others” are taking over their country,
I had asked Larry why he paraded the flag on such neutral territory as a public park.
“God and country,” he said. “For everybody.”
Not quite everybody.