2006.06.01 You're a grand old flag

Written by David Green.

By COLLEEN LEDDY

I’ve admitted before that I’m pretty bad at understanding symbolism—especially the kind that appears in poetry. But there’s one symbol that I understand the meaning of more and more—the American flag.

I didn’t use to give much thought to the flag. It’s always been just a piece of material to me—and the subject of one of my all-time favorite songs—“You’re a Grand Old Flag.” In junior high school we went on a lot of field trips and that was the song we sang over and over on the bus. But it was the rousing music and lyrics that appealed to me, not what the song was about.

Junior high was a hot time for me when it came to the flag—I was a member of the school color guard. On assembly days, when the whole school gathered in the auditorium, my fellow color guard members and I, dressed in our “uniform” of white shirts or blouses, and navy or black skirts or pants, would meet in the back. Often, I was selected to be the flag bearer. Shy as I was, I relished the role. It was an honor to walk alone down the center aisle from the back of the large auditorium to the stage, carefully carrying the flag.

Once I arrived at the center of the stage, the audience would hush, I would look out on a sea of adolescent bodies and shout the scripted words as loud as my little shy voice was capable of, “Color guard, to the front and center, march!” When they joined me on stage, I would yell, “Assembly, salute!” and everyone would place their hand over their heart. Next I would yell, “Assembly, pledge!” and the auditorium would fill with the sound of their voices reciting the pledge of allegiance.

Even though I was directly involved in the pomp and circumstance, as a young teenager, the flag had little meaning for me. Now (and I’m not even sure when, how, or why this transformation took place) it’s all I can do to keep from letting choked up tears flow when I stand in the audience at basketball or football games gazing at the flag as the Star Spangled Banner plays. No, I’m not moved to tears by the lousy music I’m incapable of singing to or the lyrics speaking of war.

But standing with a crowd of people, all looking at the flag and listening to that song, I have time to reflect on what that flag represents—what a great country this is, in spite of its many, many problems and injustices. The flag is still nothing but a piece of material to me, but it now has far more significance. I revere what it stands for, what it symbolizes. It is something that connects me to all other residents of this land, something that makes me realize that America is my place and it’s a good place.

There’s a lot I don’t like about our national anthem—“America, the Beautiful” would be my choice for our country’s theme music—but when I hear the part about “Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there” that’s when I start to choke up. I think it’s because I appreciate that our flag is still here, that this country I love is still here, that I’m living in a place I love with people I love without the fear and lack of freedom prevalent in so many countries today.

I don’t understand it, but that symbol makes me glad to be an American.

This past Memorial Day I arrived late to the cemetery. Guest speaker John Skinner was in the middle of a speech urging people to support the proposed amendment to protect the flag. I mean no disrespect to Mr. Skinner but I was disheartened to hear his words.

I know that for people who have fought and for those with loved ones who have died in the name of the flag, its meaning is far more powerful than it will ever be to me or to anyone inconsiderate enough to violate it.

Still, I don’t think the flag needs any protection at all. This is America—people can violate or destroy the flag all they want, but it won’t change or denigrate what it stands for. America is great precisely because people have the freedom to do things others of us disagree with, freedom to express their opinion and show their displeasure with the U.S. government, for example, in the highly charged and graphic method of setting the flag on fire. I don’t agree with the method. I think it’s a wacko and disrespectful way of making a point, but I don’t think we should throw them in jail for it.

Don’t rally behind the call to protect a piece of material. Rally behind the principles and freedoms that our flag symbolizes.

The beginning portion of this column appeared in a previous edition of the Observer.

  • Front.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
  • Front.sculpta
    SCULPTORS—Morenci third grade students Emersyn Thompson (left) and Marissa Lawrence turn spaghetti sticks into mini sculptures Friday during a class visit to Stair District Library. All Morenci Elementary School classes recently visited the library to experience the creative construction toys purchased through the “Sculptamania!” project, funded by a Disney Curiosity Creates grant. The grant is administered by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.
  • Funcolor
    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
  • Shadow.salon
    LEARNING THE ROPES—Kristy Castillo (left), co-owner of Mane Street Salon, works with Kendal Kuhn as Sierra Orner takes a phone call. The two Morenci Area High School juniors spent Friday at the salon as part of a job shadowing experience.
  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

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