This Flag of my Father

Vincent - Westfield, New Jersey
Entered on February 28, 2008

I believe the flag should fly everyday. This flag, the last my father raised and lowered, has been flying day in and day out, through summer sear and winter white. Springing forward and falling back, it has furled and unfurled six years full. A little frayed, but colorfast.

I might have been last to put out the flag after all had changed, changed utterly, succumbing not to the pressure to do so but to the want to belong, to be a part of, to show that I too had a belief in what this flag stands for, and have a still-strong, unyielding faith in what it alone represents. And in the grief-laden, twenty three hundred days since, this flag, my flag, flies still. As it should. As it always now will. But why solo? Not long ago flags flew from porches, window ledges, fences, trees, and cars. There was no escaping the urgent unity of that time. So where have they gone now, those flags? There is no fluttering on the passing breeze, there is no snapping in the wind, there is no symbolic unifying factor. Why are there so very few flags flying now?

I was nowhere near the first to put up the flag that fateful fall. Yes, I had always had one but hadn’t ever flown it. Maybe because dad’s bona fide flagpole, center front of the living room window, bisected every view into his or mine. I looked upon the morning-up evening-down ritual with disdain and dismay. I look back upon it now with reverence and regret. Regret that I did not then comprehend that it had always meant to my father only something good. Something that, as a member of that Greatest Generation of immigrants, he had fought for to ensure his children. I was neither of a great generation nor able to fathom the depth of his reverence, seeing only “my country right or wrong,” with teeth bared at those daring to differ with the majority, moral or silent, red or blue. So over the years, my flag sat folded, unflown.

I believe we have forgotten what those who have struggled to get here know so well, that what these shores offer, though fraught with problems, is by far better than most. I believe we have lost sight of the fact that we all stem from the same seed in the family of man, and that we all want a better world for our children. I believe we have lost sight of those most self-evident of truths, allowing our moral compasses to waiver, to be swayed by misguided freedom agendas. We have been silenced, our voices muffled. I believe we must find our lost voices and speak out without fear, to reaffirm what has been forgotten: the idea of freedom exists here. This is our strength. Let us present ourselves, 300 million strong, not as red states or blue but as united. Let us celebrate our collective heritages and futures. Let us do this to honor all who have supremely sacrificed for us, yes, but moreso to remind ourselves of our promise to those yet yearning to live free. We must remain their greatest hope.

So simplemindedly, to be sure, I say fly our flag. I believe it is symbolic of freedom and unity. It does not mean we favor the Patriot Act, or not; that we are “soft on terrorism,” or not, that we approve of the current war, the last one, or the inevitable next. I believe it simply means we are united through our colors. Colors that don’t run. But that should fly.