When I was a child, June 14 was celebrated as Flag Day, and I remembered that this morning when I noticed the date. I was very murky about what that day was supposed to celebrate, and I am quite sure I was never taught its significance. Researching it now, it apparently was to note the adoption of the first flag for the United States by the Second Continental Congress on June 14, 1777. That was a little premature, since the Revolutionary War didn’t end until 1783, but they were optimistic enough to design a flag.
Unfortunately, many people have confused caring about the country with carrying about the flag. That led to outrage in my college years when protestors set fire to flags. People were also appalled by pants being patched with flag patches. My country’s leader is almost apoplectic about athletes not standing as the national anthem is sung while looking at the flag. Some say that old flags can’t be discarded but must be ceremonially buried. There are organizations in the United States that will collect old flags and ceremonially destroy them for you.
To me a flag is a symbol, not the thing itself. Much more disrespect is shown to the values of the United States daily by our leader than is ever shown when a flag is discarded. Locking up refugee children apart from their parents, for instance, is a grave demonstration of disrespect. Flying an American flag over the lockup doesn’t bless the actions.
To the extent that the flag reminds Americans of the ideals of democracy, I am glad to fly one from my front porch and I do. But don’t think I expect you to genuflect before it. It is just a symbol, not the real truth of freedom. Kneeling during a flag ceremony is a genuine act of freedom for an American. And it is done respectfully, in silence with a bowed head of mourning. Because like those first designers of the flag they are protesting against repressive government actions. Not the British this time, but their own leaders who sometimes act without justice under the banner of the flag.