Thursday, July 2, 2015

Confessions of an Unapologetic Flag-Waver

Is patriotism dead? On life support, perhaps? In some ways it would appear to be. Protesters burn American flags for various reasons – or non-reasons – and many pundits view that as their right to free speech.

Immigrants from other nations benefit from living in the U.S.A., but show disrespect for American traditions. On the West Coast, Muslim residents of a housing complex protested when a fellow resident proudly displayed the flag, claiming it was offensive and made them feel threatened. Can we say, “Really? Seriously?”

Statesmen in the past seemed to revel in the Stars and Stripes, but today numerous elected officials apparently view such practices as wearing an American flag lapel pin, or even putting their hands over their heart during the singing of the National Anthem as beneath their dignity. Celebrities, many of whom have enjoyed firsthand the benefits of “the American dream,” boldly declare how ashamed they are of America.

Again, the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to free speech – politically correct, of course – so I suppose they’re exercising that right. But as a bonafide “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” born on the 4th of July, I would hope this Independence Day the patriots among us will again rise up and declare our pride in our flag, our nation, and in being true Americans.

The United States is far from perfect, and people are entitled to object in a dignified manner to injustices and wrongdoing. But when I see the 50 stars on a field of blue, along with the stripes of red and white, I don’t see them symbolizing materialism and greed, prejudice or social disparity. I see them as representing the courage of men, women and children who came to our shores centuries ago to start a new life. I see them as emblematic of the thousands upon thousands of lives sacrificed to protect the values and principles upon which this nation was established.

The website,, discusses the colors of the American flag and what they represent:
The colors red, white, and blue did not have meanings for the Stars and Stripes when it was adopted in 1777. However, the colors in the Great Seal did have specific meanings. Charles Thompson, Secretary of the Continental Congress, reporting to Congress on the Seal, stated:
"The colors of the pales (the vertical stripes) are those used in the flag of the United States of America: White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness & valour, and Blue, the color of the Chief (the broad band above the stripes) signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice."
Also, from a book about the flag published in 1977 by the House of Representatives:
"The star is a symbol of the heavens and the divine goal to which man has aspired from time immemorial; the stripe is symbolic of the rays of light emanating from the sun."

I wholeheartedly believe we can respect and revere the American flag, which has weathered storms both internal and external, while acknowledging much remains to be done on many fronts to better serve and protect its citizens. Even though my immediate ancestors came to the United States in the early 1900s, they and subsequent generations have enjoyed much of what this nation and its society have to offer. For that I’m extremely grateful, and hope that in some small way I’ve been not only a beneficiary but also a contributor.

That being said, I don’t believe we are – or ever truly were – a “Christian nation.” There has always been room for disparate beliefs, as well as unbelief. And history shows our founding fathers reflected the spectrum of these. But our Declaration of Independence speaks of all men being “created equal,” not evolving, and “being endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” Our statesmen through the centuries have affirmed belief in the divine, ranging from George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, to Abraham Lincoln, to more contemporary Presidents and government leaders.

The United States has long stood as unique among the world’s nations. Some have termed it, ‘The Great Experiment.” While I can’t prove it empirically, I believe our nation has prospered in large measure due to the blessings of God to whom we as a people have given deference, as least until recent decades.

Today our flag flies in figurative tatters, battered by unconscionable violence, strife and discord that would hardly be reflective of how a “Christian nation” should act. But we’re not without hope. It will require taking to heart – and putting into practice – an Old Testament promise that’s often repeated, but soon forgotten:

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Dating back to the 1960s, first our judicial system and then our houses of law determined we didn’t need God. Perhaps we’d become so prosperous as a nation that we concluded we should declare independence from Him. And God, although sovereign, seems to have acquiesced, telling us, “If I’m not wanted, I’ll withdraw and remove My hand from you. See how that works out.”

I may be in the minority, but in my view, it’s not working very well. On this Independence Day, maybe it’s time to consider that independence from God isn’t such a great idea.

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