Sojourns

Reflections on a year in 365 photographs

365:NINETY-EIGHT

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The U.S. flag flies over the Family Circle Cup center court stadium on Daniel Island, SC.

The Standard

I drove by this U.S. flag flying high over the Family Circle Cup center court stadium here on Daniel Island near Charleston, SC tonight.  For some reason it struck a chord with me tonight, reminding me of all that it stands for to me.  I have a folded flag which was flown over the Iwo Jima Memorial in Washington, D.C. and presented to me at my military retirement.  I spent two years as the color sergeant for a Marine Corps battalion, carrying the colors for all official functions.  I passed yet another folded flag to the widow of a friend killed in Iraq.  I also remember further back as a young boy, the summer of 1976 and the celebration of 200 years dedicated to democratic principles and the notion that all men are created equal.  I remember standing with hand, hat, or helmet over the heart, facing the flag for untold renditions of the national anthem before sporting events.  I have seen, saluted, carried, or retired this flag all over the world.

And yet, I am also reminded that this flag means something completely different to every citizen who calls this country home.  I remember seeing the flag burned on some courthouse steps somewhere in America on the nightly news.  I have seen politicians of all stripes wrapping themselves in the colors and proclaiming their view the “right way for America” while denouncing their brothers and sisters across the aisle.  In my life people have killed or been killed for their views on life, liberty, and the pursuit of the American Way.  Media seems to thrive on amplifying the divisions among us, as if the constant strife is the lifeblood of what this country is, rather than just one tolerable byproduct of the ingenious republican political system that the founders created in order to afford all of us a voice in the greater plurality.  Simple philosophical disagreements become distorted into situations where the other side gets accused of conspiracy, lying and, even worse, traitorous intentions.

I believe that when someone expresses a difference of opinion that I ought to open my ears rather than close my mind.  I am but one voice of millions.  If all of you agreed with me, what would be left in life but to grow old and watch M.A.S.H. reruns?  Nobody really wants to live in Pleasantville where everything and everyone is the same, shiny and new.  That isn’t the real world.  We ought to celebrate the cracks, fissures, and time-worn edges of our democratic institution over which this flag flies.  The next time you see a flag reflect not only on what it means to you, but also what it means to the family down the street, the young kid packing your groceries in the checkout line, the harried mother with 10 kids in her Suburban, the homeless guy in the park, or the hopeful immigrant.  None of us can claim sole ownership of all the flag symbolizes, but every one of us bears responsibility to keep the flame alive.

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Written by Brian Fancher

April 8, 2010 at 8:02 pm

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