The post office and schools and federal buildings always had flags flying, identifying them as public buildings. It used to be rare for a flag to be flown at half staff, only symbolizing the death of a president, but nowadays it is frequently at half staff for the death of a US soldier in the Middle East.
However, by the late 1960's a flag decal on a car's rear window was as good as a “Red Neck” stamp. Somehow the flag had come to mean a hawkish, predatory political stance as well as the logo for general ignorance, prejudice and bluster. The peace symbol, a pie-in-circle designed in 1958 in Britain for the nuclear disarmament movement, symbolized intellectual liberals, anti-war politics, and a laissez-faire hippie languidity. The flag and the peace symbol were at war.
In the 1980's, the flag came out of the closet once again, flying huge and high over the Burger King chain. The awesome sight from the freeway of the red, white and blue proudly waving on a 60' pole was the trigger for children to cry out for a Kid's Meal. Hamburgers became visually linked with the flag, hot apple pies (in a paper wrapper, make that “to go”) and Mom behind the wheel. The flag was a marketing tool.
On the day that stunned America, September 11, 2001, the American flag quickly rose as a rallying cry for love of country. Hardware stores and Costco couldn't meet the demand of consumers. Car antennae held flags, work trucks boasted flags, young men had them flying high from their big wheel trucks. Neighborhoods were full of flags hung from a standard or in the windows. There was a unity in the spirit of business people, neighbors, and strangers on the road: “We love our country. We're hurt, we're shocked, but we have something special and no one can take that away from us.” The intensity of the inward feeling compelled the outward expression of the flag as a meaningful bond with others.
Then, slowly, came the shame. The war lingered. American youngsters were killed in a war whose support was welshing. The original offense against our country on 9-11 receded as our wartime acts became less defensible. New reports that original intelligence was faulty quelled the fervor of pay-back. Now to be flag-waving was a political liability, a right-wing conservatism, a blind but loyal Republicanism that others mocked. Flag stickers came off cars but yellow “Support Our Troops” stickers emerged to mediate between the intemperate “pull out now” gang and the loyal '”my country right or wrong” crowd.
Can a person be a Democrat and have a flag decal on his car?
Can a Republican have a peace symbol?
Can you have a flag and a peace symbol, both?
Can you be peace-loving and patriotic?
Can you be patriotic without being nationalistic?
Can we have a global mentality and home-grown pride?
A while back at a family gathering we had a rather heated discussion that was left unresolved. Some of the family members fought in WWII, Vietnam, and served in peacetime, too. The flag is a meaningful symbol to them of all the best foundational principles that made America. Freedom.
And then we have some who feel that the flag has no place in a church: ie, Christ didn't just die for Americans, did he? They think that if we have a flag of one country flying we should have one of every country.
A year ago for either Memorial Day or July 4th Independence Day I made a piano medley of patriotic hymns for special music at our church. So as to be clear on the purpose of the message, gratitude to and dependence on God, not “Manifest Destiny”, I included the words of selected verses in the bulletin:
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord
GOD OF OUR FATHERS
Thy love divine hath led us in the past,
In this free land by Thee our lot is cast;
Be Thou our Ruler, Guardian, Guide, and Stay,
Thy Word our law, Thy paths our chosen way.
From war's alarms, from deadly pestilence,
Be Thy strong arm our eversure defense;
Thy true religion in our heart's increase,
Thy bounteous goodness nourish us in peace.
ETERNAL FATHER, STRONG TO SAVE
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bids the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep:
O hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea
My Country, 'Tis of Thee
Our father's God, to Thee, Author of liberty, To Thee we sing:
Long may our land be bright With freedom's holy light;
Protect us by Thy might, Great God, our King!
America, the Beautiful
O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved, And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness and every gain divine!
O thus be it ever, when free men shall stand Between their loved homes and the war's desolation! Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation! Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just; And this be our motto; “In God is our trust!” And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free, while God is marching on
Well, our worship leader had the feeling that patriotic songs did't belong in the service because God isn't an American and we don't worship America: we worship God. I surely agree but felt misunderstood. I am thankful for God's many provisions to me personally and to this land, including the governing principles that allow me my freedom. I do not feel superior to other nationalities or that I have done any more to earn these privileges than being born here. I am just grateful for the many blessings.
Immediately after 9-11, a preponderance of cars had signs in their windows: “Proud to be an American”. This struck a wrong note with me. I thought the sign, if any, should say “Grateful to be an American.”
We attended a church service in Tunisia on a Sunday when they were celebrating Nigerian Independence Day. The Nigerians were dressed in traditional finery, and they sang and danced Nigerian songs and thanked God for the rich national resources that He had given to the land and people. There were heartfelt prayers for the leaders of their government to do their best in managing those rich resources. It was a beautiful time of blending love for country and love for God in proper perspective, and I thought it was very appropriate in a Tunisian church as an American to thank God and pray for Nigeria.
Yes, I think you can be patriotic, grateful and still have a global world view.
I would love for this to become a forum for your views, too, on the flag, patriotism, globalism, etc. My thoughts are still developing and I welcome yours.