by Courtney Pierce
Most people bought into the propaganda, but I had questions. Like most kids, I had a knack for stating the obvious when I blurted out a challenge to the narrative. And I assumed my parents had all the answers.
"So . . . why would anyone want to burn the flag?" I asked my mother.
She drew in a breath, a film reel of information and possible responses clattering behind her eyes. The edge of my seat became thin as I, too, inhaled. All Mom could muster was, "It's complicated."
A completely unsatisfying answer. I was on my own to pull it apart.
I recently poked through some of our faded Polaroid family photos. I dug out one that showed an image of me, a young Dutch-looking girl, holding up two fingers. Peace and feeling groovy.
I had no idea what peace meant. I only hung on the words of the Herman’s Hermits, The Beatles, and Paul Revere and the Raiders. Oh . . . and The Cowsills.Back then, some things were sacred, especially the summer and winter Olympics. The Games represented those who were proud of their countries and heritage. Anything else would have been unthinkable. Every American was supposed to enjoy a place on the team. I wanted to spin and spin like Dorothy Hamill, to be the best and captivate the world, just like she did. How dare an athlete shake a fist in the air from the medals podium! The thought of not being inspired by patriotism in a global competition seemed like treason to me.
As a family, we erected our American flag on the front of the house for Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and the Fourth of July. I don’t remember what we pledged out loud, but we paid homage to our country. We respected the flag by not ever letting it touch the ground and taking it down at sunset. A proper ceremony on those three holidays required us to fold the flag properly, edges of the stars all nicely tucked to make a perfect triangle.We of the United States were the good guys. We had to be, because according to the news, all those other countries were the bad guys. The Vietnam War made no sense to me. Nixon made no sense to me. Watergate made no sense to me, either.
As it will all eventually come out, Nixon was a good guy in the wrong place in political time. He couldn’t fight what was really going on at levels we didn’t understand, and still don’t to this day. At the time, all I cared about was what the United States stood for: freedom, liberty, personal rights, and my ability to be a unique individual.
I rode my bike to imagine what I could do with the life ahead of me. All I needed was to dream big and work hard to make anything happen.I rode my bike everywhere. My father travelled for work during the week and my mother kept up the house as she never learned to drive. Thank God we lived in the small fishing village of Cohasset, Massachusetts. I could go anywhere I wanted, on foot or on two wheels, the only limit being the endurance of my legs. Mom never worried as long as I got home for dinner.
Oh, what a different world we lived in back then. War and strife around the world were contained in a television, black and white, with rabbit ears and tin foil.It wasn’t until I entered college at San Jose State University in the late seventies that I realized there were government leaders that didn’t want peace. Free societies were purposely upended to create chaos. The Middle East became a hotbed of hate and division. I turned my back on all the campus protesting and shouts of "Down with the Shah!". I had my dreams to attend to. Plus, I had just gotten married. Betrothed students were a different kind of college attendee. . . outsiders.
I used to laugh when I watched the Miss America Pageant. Most contestants stated they wanted “world peace” as their top goal. What did that mean? We’ve never had it, so how could they know about something they’ve never experienced? The response came off as a throw-away line to the judges who were inspecting the curves of their swimsuits.
It wasn’t until I was steeped in a corporate career that I realized a stealthy war was taking place under my nose. It wasn’t “out there” but all around me: corruption and greed. I watched it in real time over 25 years of takeovers, mergers and acquisitions. Tow the line and make the new owners look good. The only things that changed was the stationary and the percentage of my salary to be contributed to a Political Action Committee, whether I agreed with the principals or not. Play or be forced to the back of the bus.
The whole scenario didn't define me, so I plotted my escape. It took 28 years to achieve that goal, but I did it. I chose to follow my heart. It wasn’t without pain, though. Everything I had dreamed about from those days of riding my bike came true, but the reality of the achievement wasn’t what I thought it would be. I lost a 37-year marriage in the process, gained a soul mate and stepdaughter for life, and now live in the paradise Montana.
When Aubrey Cenderon moves to Montana after the death of her father, the peace and quiet of Big Sky Country becomes complicated with a knock on the door from the sheriff. An injured grizzly bear is on the loose and it must be eliminated before it kills again. The sheriff's insistence that she buy a gun for protection will present Aubrey with some serious soul-searching, because the grizzly-on-the-run is hunting her too . . . for a different reason.