Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Flag Day

Today is Flag Day, and honestly, I'm not sure how many folks now really notice.   As we bustle about our day to day busyness, it's an easy thing to miss completely.

I, on the other hand, almost never forget a Flag Day.  It's one of those important days every year, but for reasons that are perhaps idiosyncratic to my own bad self.  It's our Dating Anniversary.  At around six o'clock in the evening on Flag Day 1989, after a long day running forklifts in an un-air-conditioned auto parts warehouse, I plunked my showered and freshly deodoranted self into the drivers seat of my parents old Volvo 240 Wagon.  Taking a few deep, long, calming breaths, I drove to the house of a girl I'd known and liked in high school, who'd agreed to dinner-and-movie it with me that night.  It's been a while since that Flag Day.  Honestly, I'm not sure I noticed it was Flag Day then.  Old Glory was not really front and center in my 20 year old mind.  I was, um, distracted.

Flags are funny things, and the flag of our constitutional republic is no exception.  As a symbol, it's actually rather unusual.

Many national flags have, at their root, some deep and profound meaning that articulates the character of a nation.  The first flag I remember, as a very little boy growing up overseas, was the national flag of Kenya.   That flag has design elements that mean a bunch of things.  Black for the rich dark peat of the African people.  Red for the struggle for independence.  Green for agriculture and natural beauty.  White stripes for peace and unity.  And in the middle, a Masai shield and crossed spears, representing their fight for freedom and their fierceness as a nation.

Our Grand Old Flag, on the other hand, has Stripes, which signify the original 13 colonies.  And then it has stars on a blue background, one for each state in the Union.

And brothers and sisters, that's as far as the essential, original, intentional meaning goes.  Yeah, folks of a patriotic bent have over the years have made all sorts of creative [stuff] up, suggesting all sorts of fanciful and florid meanings for each of the design elements.

Blue is for Liberty!  Red is for the Blood of the Patriots!  The stars are for each of Our Iconic 1960s Hollywood A-Listers!  White is for Liberty!  Wait...did I already say Liberty?  Well, this is America!  It's for Liberty AGAIN!  FREEEEBIRD!!!

But truth be told, what our flag says to the world is this:  There were 13 colonies.  Now there are fifty states.  Period.

We have other things that speak more powerfully to the deeper and more profound graces of our national character.  We have our Declaration of Independence.  We have our Constitution, though that's a wee bit on the practical side too.  And we have our freedom, a freedom you can feel on our soil every time you speak your mind without fear.  If you want to know us, and what makes us worth knowing, those are the places to go, to read, and to learn.

But our flag?  It's practical, straightforward, down to earth, and to the point.  It gets 'er done.  Just like the republic for which it stands, when we're at our best.