Long May It Wave
Today is Flag Day, a day set aside to commemorate the adoption of the flag of the United States on June 14, 1777 by the Second Continental Congress.
Our fledgling nation chose the banner that would represent our nation that day --13 red and white stripes for the 13 original colonies. White stars on a blue field, originally 13, now 50, representing states of the union.
For almost a hundred years, the flag was primarily a military emblem or a way to mark American territory or flown on the 4th of July. Then, in 1860, a Major Robert Anderson moved American troops into Fort Sumter in Charleston, defying the growing Confederacy and raised the U.S. Flag, certainly not the last time the flag has flown in defiance.The flag’s role in the fierce battles that followed Major Anderson’s surprising stand, led to wider recognition of the symbolic value of the American flag. Flags were mass-produced for the first time. Suddenly they flew from houses, stores and churches.
Flag Day had its beginnings in 1885 in a one-room schoolhouse in Waubeka, Wisconsin when a 19-year-old first-year teacher stuck a 38 star flag in an inkwell and told students to write an essay on what the flag meant to them. That teacher, Bernard Cigrand, sold books to earn money for dentistry school. Throughout his schooling and subsequent years of dental practice and teaching in Illinois, he devoted decades to his campaign to establish a day to honor the birth of the American flag. This son of Luxembourg immigrants was relentless in lobbying local and national leaders to recognize a Flag Day. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation calling for observance of Flag Day. Finally in 1948, 17 years after Cigrand’s death, President Harry Truman signed a Congressional act into law designating June 14th as Flag Day.
The American flag is tied to our culture and raises strong emotions in most Americans. As a symbol of freedom and liberty it’s known throughout the world.
When Americans feel threatened or attacked or challenged, flags often come out of the closet and are flown as a symbol of solidarity. Remember the number of flags that flew in our towns and cities in the weeks after 9-11?
The response by Americans when they heard that those who attacked us thought that America would fall to its knees when we were directly attacked was a resounding "Hell, no!” And nothing said that quite as well as the flag flying over what was left of the World Trade Center while the dust and smoke still swirled around it.
The American flag has flown on the moon, at the North Pole and over countless battlefields. It’s been used as inspiration, comfort and sadly, as a club to bludgeon political opponents.
As a symbol of American freedom and independence, the flag can’t be beat. Unfortunately, its value as a symbol is sometimes placed above the American values it represents.
Every American has constitutionally guaranteed rights, some of which are freedom of religion, speech, assembly and press. We are free from unreasonable searches and seizures and have the right to due process of law. Or at least we did until the Patriot Act, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and other federal efforts were put into effect to "keep us safe”. While we debate the fine and not so fine points of recent events, this is a good time to ponder the meaning of Flag Day 2013.
Let’s not become so focused on the piece of cloth that represents our freedom that we forget the ideals and freedom that the flag stands for. It’s the ideals and freedom that matter, not the cloth. Remember those on Flag Day.
While we’re thinking about the flag, let’s look at what the U.S. Flag Code says about how to display the flag. Since 9-11, there are more flags in more places than ever before. Those of us who learned early how to show respect for the flag, are often taken aback at how it is treated now in some quarters.
According to the Flag Code, the flag should be flown from sunrise to sunset only unless the flag is illuminated. No other flag should fly above the U.S. flag, though whether it should fly at the same level or higher when displayed with other nations’ flags is unclear in the code.
Then it gets interesting, at least compared to current practice. The code says the flag should never be carried flat, yet a giant flag is often displayed in just this fashion at sporting events.
The code also says the flag should never be used as wearing apparel and never be used for advertising. It would be difficult to list the many times we’ve all seen both done.
I recall the furor that sewing a flag on the seat of a pair of jeans caused in the 1960’s. Now I see shorts, shirts and hats, all with a distinctive flag on them. Times change.
When your flag is no longer usable, you can bring it to the American Legion at 899 Buttonwood Dr. They turn them over to the Boy Scouts who will burn them.
It is the flag just as much of the man who was naturalized yesterday
as of the men whose people have been here many generations.
~Henry Cabot Lodge