It is Flag Day, June 14, 2017 and we don’t have a flag hanging from our flag pole. Haven’t had since we took it down before a hurricane last fall. It was frayed and in need of replacement. The Florida sun is hard on flags. They fade, they fray, they lose that look of crispness.
Weeks went by, then months and still no flag replacement. I finally added it to my Mother’s Day gift request list. I got the flag but somehow it is still not hung. Days in May slipped away. Then we were away for part of May and June. Now we are in catch up mode. I’ll keep putting the reminder to hang the new flag on my spouse’s weekly task list. And if it does not get checked off, I’ll likely nag, whine, and eventually get insistent. I’ve had a flag hanging wherever I lived for a long time but I don’t recall that as part of my childhood. I do recall a respect for the flag and what it symbolizes. It seems as if I have known the Pledge of Allegiance as long as I’ve known the Our Father.
Lately, as I watch the nightly news I’ve been thinking about that pledge and its meaning. Attending a funeral for a young man who was in the Navy ratcheted up my thinking about the meaning of this pledge we say too casually at times. We recite it automatically at all kinds of events, at meetings, at sports events, at military funerals. How often do we reflect on the words?
I attended college as an older than average student. It was right in the midst of the anti-Vietnam War years. The idea that any American would protest a declared war was foreign to me until I realized we are a nation founded out of protest. Protest is one thing, violence is another, and open hostility with an edge of danger is beyond my comfort zone.
I think we need to reflect on the words we say when we look at our flag, a symbol of this nation, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Here’s the pledge along with my thoughts on that pledge.
"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
Pledge means to commit, to make a solemn promise. (What are we pledging?)
Allegiance means fidelity to a government, devotion, loyalty. (That is our pledge. It does not necessarily mean we must agree totally. It does imply that our actions need to reflect a loyalty to the greater good, not to an individual want.)
Republic: this is a form of government that is not a monarchy, not a dictatorship. There is an elected head, elected by the people. (We also have the Congress and our states mirror this form of government. We are not a democracy. Webster provides this definition of a democracy, a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections. Our election system does not count as one vote but votes direct the electoral college. This was established so large population states did not run rough shod over citizens living in smaller, less populated states.)
One means a simple unit. Think about that.
Indivisible means it is impossible to divide or separate. Think about that.
Liberty means the quality or state of being free; freedom from arbitrary or despotic control.
Justice is the process or result of using laws to fairly judge and punish crimes and criminals. Ideal but not necessarily true for all in all cases.
All means every member or individual. Not some, not eliminate a group due to color, religion, sexuality, tattoos, piercing, economic status. This is a pretty big ideal. I, for one, will think harder the next time I say the Pledge of Allegiance. I will prayerfully consider the words and the flag. This Pledge is not a casual thing. And the flag is more than cloth, it is a symbol of our nation, of those who live here, our neighbors, our friends, and it includes those who might stretch our comfort zone. July 4th is headed our way with its parades, fireworks, and flags. Do some heart thinking and hard thinking on that day.