04 July 2005

Flying the Flag

I bought an American flag kit yesterday, and set it up to be displayed from the steps on the east side of the house. It's a full-size "house" flag, 3' by 5', that is visible from anyone driving along the gravel road. Although I'm not an early riser, I got up at 6:30 a.m., and with the morning sun just above the hills and full in my eyes, I carefully unfurled the flag, settled the pole in the bracket, and tied the halyard to the brace.

In past years I never gave much thought to flying the flag on the Fourth of July, or any other day. Our old house was hidden in the middle of 40 acres of woods, at the end of a pot-holed lane. No one drove by except solicitors and evangelistic types, and we discouraged even those by letting the blackberries grow tall and thick along the road. The nearest neighbors were half-a-mile away and out of sight. There would have been no one to notice a flag, or to misinterpret the lack of a flag as indifference.

Things have changed a great deal for me this past year. Not only have I moved, but I've become ever more aware of the growing threats to the ideals and principles upon which this nation was founded. The concepts of liberty, justice, personal freedom, independence, the rights of property, self-defense, and free speech, are being dismantled and gutted by our own government officials, both elected and appointed, because as a nation we have allowed each new generation in the last 60 years or so to grow up more ignorant of our history, and the world's, than the last.

I don't normally discuss politics, and I'm not about to do that here. But I find it distressing that, as a nation, we are fighting to bring freedom to other countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan, while as a people, we are allowing those same freedoms to be stolen from us bit by bit, with only a small but vocal cadre of defenders crying into the wind to be heard.

Several times during the day, I checked on the flag. A couple of times I noticed the light breeze had wrapped the flag around the pole, or flipped it up over the end, so I went out and carefully loosened it to fly freely again.

In the late afternoon, I drove down to Portland, and on the way back, I decided to pay attention to how many flags I saw. It was not a totally bleak picture, but the turnout was much less than I expected. Of the businesses that were open on the holiday, I saw (multiple) flags on many car dealerships, and on every fireworks stand, but very very few others. In the urban residential areas I passed thru, perhaps only one in twenty or thirty houses had a flag flying.

I got off the freeway in Vancouver, and took surface streets the remaining thirty miles home. Newer developments with $250,000-and-up houses had almost no flags visible. Only when I got into the more rural sections of the county did I start to see a few more flags. One here, two or three in a row there, most often on older or smaller houses. I even spotted one or two houses that were set back behind trees, where no one not specifically looking would even notice, that had a flag flying proudly from a real flagpole. I found myself saying "Thank you!" out loud to each such household that I passed.

On the whole drive, sadly, there was not enough display of color to even remotely suggest to a foreign visitor that today we were celebrating our nation's independence. Only the closed businesses and the fireworks displays would hint that it was a national holiday.

I got home, untangled my own flag once more, and fixed dinner. At 8:55, just before official sunset, I went out, removed the pole from the bracket, carefully furled the flag around the pole, and brought it inside.

Why did I fly the flag today? For many reasons. To honor my father, my late uncle, my brother, my brother-in-law, my husband, all of whom are veterans. To celebrate our history and our continued independence. Because this is a country where one can freely choose to fly, or to not fly, the flag, without fear. To show that I believe in the ideals upon which our constitutional republic is based. To support our troops around the world who are fighting to bring freedom to countries and peoples threatened with enslavement by fanatical leaders. Because I understand that World War IV, the war against terrorism, must be fought unrelentingly, and that we must win, if our grandchildren are to have a hope of growing up to proudly, and freely, salute that flag.

After I brought in the flag, I called my father, who was stationed in the South Pacific during World War II, and simply told him, "Thank you for serving."



At 7/05/2005 11:17:00 AM, Blogger jesusyazzie said...

What a beautiful tribute to our country and our veterans! Thank you!

At 7/05/2005 05:45:00 PM, Blogger Greg Brown said...

I completely agree with you, with one tiny exception. I never bothered with displaying the flag -- I put my money where my mouth was by volunteering for the Army in 1967 and putting in four years of service. (I didn't get a t-shirt, but I did get a full set of green clothes)

Right after 9/11 a lot of people thought displaying their patriotism was hanging a flag from the antenna of their car. As I said at that time, I don't think it's very patriotic to spatter the flag with dead bugs, while ripping it to shreds. Not to mention the utter hypocrisy involved when the flag wasn't replaced, but tossed and forgotten.

Greg Brown

At 7/16/2005 02:56:00 AM, Blogger Owen Lowe said...

We've flown a flag on our house for almost 10 years now - just seemed the right thing to do.

This year, however, I contemplated rehanging it upside-down as the recognized sign of distress indicating my concern for many of the current problems you mentioned. Given that my liberal philosophy is in the minority in my little 'berg, I decided against turning our flag and the 4th into a political statement.

After untangling our flag the other day I noticed how faded it has become. It also developed a small tear from snagging on the corner of the eave. Looking over the selection at the local Fred Meyer, I just couldn't stomach paying $20 for a replacement made in China. I'll soon send off an order through OR Senator Ron Wyden for a $20 flag flown over the US Capitol. I certainly hope this one is made in the USA - or else a letter writing campaign may be in order.


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