FLYING OUR FLAGS
One Saturday evening toward the end of January, my wife Susan and I noticed the huge flag at the edge of Kentucky Kingdom flying at half-mast. I was momentarily baffled but then remembered that President Gerald Ford had recently died. The flag had been lowered to honor him.
I turned to my wife. “We fly the American flag at half-staff for a month for a former President,” I said, “and that’s fine, but we have over three thousand Americans dead in Iraq and Afghanistan, and at the end of this period of mourning for Gerald Ford we’ll raise the flag again.” I was suddenly appalled by the notion of raising the flag to full mast.
I have been accused of aiding and abetting America’s enemies, for I am against this war in Iraq. Before President Bush sent troops there, my wife and I were on the corner of Bardstown Road and Douglass Boulevard in Louisville participating in a candlelight vigil with hundreds of other disenchanted citizens. We were speaking out in a quiet way against the impending invasion. I have never accepted the notion—first offered up by members of the President’s cabinet and then by Mr. Bush himself, and lately reiterated by the new Secretary of Defense, Robert M. Gates—that to dissent against war-time policy is tantamount to abandoning our troops and siding with the enemy. This response astonishes me; I find it contrary to the very essence of what it means to be an American. Isn’t freedom of speech a fundamental right in our land? Don’t good citizens voice their opinions, pro and con, regarding the decisions made by the President, whoever it might be? Isn’t America still a nation with a government of the people, by the people, and for the people?
I certainly hope so.
To honor these soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, once vivacious dreamers and doers (just like us) who have died and are continuing to die in ever-greater numbers in a war that has spiraled into a violent and chaotic sectarian conflict, I propose that we leave all American flags at half staff. No, I do not support this war in Iraq, but I do support the service men and women who have been placed in harm’s way. I quietly grieve each day for America’s newly dead (and for the tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis who have been slaughtered in the cross-fire).
I submit that it is our young men and women who never had the opportunity to become a president, or an accountant or hairdresser, a mechanic or teacher, a golf pro or musician, a mother or father, that it is these and all the rest of the American dead who are due acknowledgment and honor. When no more are dying in this war that has divided our country, perhaps it will be time to raise our flags to full staff once again.
This I believe.
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