Initial Impressions of the U.S.

By Mugambi Mutegi

Alexandria, VA

Americans are in love with America.

I drew this conclusion since almost all buildings in Washington, D.C have a U.S. flag flying from their rooftops.

Curiously, these buildings are not government buildings. Instead they were high-rise office buildings or hotels. While they all have differing architectural designs, their unifying characteristic was that most of them had a solitary flag on their rooftops.

Moreover, when I visited Alexandria, Virginia there were even American flags outside people’s homes.

This was particularly strange to me, and coincidentally ironic, since there is an ongoing debate in Kenya between the attorney general and governors over the right to fly a miniature Kenyan flag on their vehicles. The newly-elected officials have raised a storm over a decree forbidding them from flying a miniature flag on their official vehicles. Flying a small Kenyan flag on official government vehicles is a decades-old practice – one which has come to be associated with identifying the ‘center of power’.

While this issue remains unresolved in Kenya, in the United States, which person flies which flag, what size, where and when is a matter that is neither here nor there.

Nobody seems to be really concerned. Go ahead – buy and fly a flag. It’s your right.

My unverified opinion on this flag culture is that Americans are a patriotic people.

While some may argue that the number of flags flapping in the wind is far from an accurate measure of citizens’ patriotism, I think at least, it gives visitors that impression. Whether this is true or not in reality is a debate for another day.

Kenyans are a patriotic lot but we mostly show this on national holiday celebrations, when supporting a particular cause. During football matches or athletics races – which we are renowned for – involving our countrymen, we will come out chanting and supporting our own.

We do carry flags and wave them in particular during football matches but flying them atop our buildings, homes, hotels? Not a chance.

My stay in the United States so far has been quite entertaining and culturally revealing. This is my second visit having previously spent four days in Chicago in November 2011.

I am looking forward to more fun times in the months to come.