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Jeremy Hogan

A woman waits on a cold winter morning for a loved one to step off a plane after serving in Iraq with the Indiana National Guard.

Symbol, Statement or Shill

Porterville is a small Central California. The part of the local economy that isn’t fast food chains, big box stores and other corporate ventures mostly owned by people who don’t even live there – is agricultural based. However, the huge farms just outside of town are also mostly corporate owned.

United Farm Workers marchers take nearly the same 350-mile route to Sacramento that had been taken by Cesar Chavez during the 1960s.

The food grown on those farms is shipped off to who knows where. But, to grow these commodities they dump chemicals on the ground and spray poison into the air with little regard to how it affects the locals. Each year the Orange and other harvests also require the hiring of hundreds and maybe even thousands of workers who are mostly Latinos. Many of these workers are illegal aliens and they come from all over Latin America not just Mexico. Often, these people find work, but no American Dream because of the low wages they are paid.

Latinos wave United Farm Worker flags outside the California capitol, where marchers were arriving after a 350-mile foot journey from Delano to Sacramento.

And like many places in America, sadly Porterville is a place divided by race, class and economics. In this place, they teach about an idealized America in the schools and then it seems that those textbooks were written by people and for people that must live elsewhere.

What is really going on is that certain corporations have come into my town to take, and take, and take giving back very little to the people who have to live there year after year. However, I shouldn't give the impression that I think all corporations are bad because I don't. But for the reasons above, I had to get out of there myself. I didn’t want to work at the Wal Mart portrait studio, which was about the only job in town for a photographer. Things are better for me since I left but it also makes me a little sad I had to leave my family and my home to find a better life and follow my dreams.

Tattered American flag, sign reading: $1.99, Porterville, Calif. 1992

And though I haven’t lived in Porterville in over a decade thinking back, there’s one image I made there that still leaves me angry and feeling cynical … its an image I shot of a corporation flying an old, tattered American flag above my town. I’m angry because that flag should have been taken down and ceremonially burned when it became tattered. Ironically it’s the symbol of America’s Freedom but a corporation flying it can take millions of dollars in profits from my community but they won’t replace a ten-dollar flag that means so much to the conservative and even some of the not so conservative residents who live there.

Therefore, the flag becomes a symbol about how some corporations, whose owners I've never seen or met, have colonized and exploited my city and the people who live there. But what that flag really means is the formation of a nation that refused to live under the tyranny of the British Empire or anyone else.

Now, I suppose it is the “Freedom” of any corporation to fly a tattered American flag above my town but this isn’t an act of free speech like seen like . . .

Jeremy John, right, laughs as he acts in an anti-Patriot Act II political theatre with Erik Woodworth outside the Bloomington office of the FBI.

where a flag is on the ground or . . .

Symbolic “coffins” used to protest George W. Bush's war in Iraq line a street in Washington D.C. Bush was inaugurated for his second term and paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue later.

where flags are used to cover symbolic coffins during anti-war protest.

An anti-Globalization protester play harmonica after police used pepper spray on protesters during a meeting of the IMF and the World Bank in Washington, D.C. April 16, 2000

I am a strong supporter of free speech, even speech I personally don’t agree with. This usage of the flag I’m writing about is a callous act of neglect because it saves a little money to keep flying an old flag not fit to be flown anymore.

Arlington South - Camp Casey - Crawford, TX 2005.

Not that I often fly the flag myself … but were I going to fly a flag - unless I wanted to make a political statement (which I might photograph if someone else did but I wouldn't do myself) I would fly it honorably or not fly it at all because I don’t want to hurt my neighbors who really care about what that flag means to them. Furthermore, right or wrong, many people in Porterville during its history and across America for over 200 years have died defending that flag with honest and clean intentions apart from whatever American foreign policy was at the time. In Porterville, we lost more of our own in Vietnam per capita than any other town in America.

Tattered American flag, sign reading: $1.99, Porterville, Calif. 1992

Therefore, it’s my Freedom to think whomever the CEO is of that company … that he or she’s a greedy idiot who doesn’t care about my community or my country or care about what Freedom really means as represented by the American flag. That person has probably never been to my town anyway.

Arlington South - Camp Casey - Crawford, TX 2005.


To Learn More About Jeremy Hogan visit his website.



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