Mrs. Smythe returned to the microphone. “We now invite you, as individuals and households, to bring your own flags forward, wash and rinse them, and then hang them on the clotheslines. While doing so, if you so wish, please feel free to share your name and your reason for washing your flag. In the interests of time, please use a brief format such as: ‘My name is so-and-so, and I am washing my flag to remove the stain of such-and such.’ We may disagree with some of each other’s choices, but we will listen to everyone with respect, as we would be listened to, and engage in discussion later. We will have opportunities to speak more at length with each other during our shared meal.”
We all looked at each other. Tentatively at first, people stepped forward.
“The Japanese internment.”
“Our failure to take proper care of our veterans.”
One woman walked up to the tubs with four children in tow. She looked nervous, even scared.
“My name is Jean, and in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, I am washing my flag to remove the stain of abortion.”
A couple of people applauded. Some others visibly stiffened. But there was no mistaking the sincerity and pain on her face. There was an awkward silence, until one of the other attendees, who had said “inequality” when she washed her flag, approached Jean and gave her a big hug.
“Friends and fellow-citizens,” said Mrs. Smyth, “while the flags are drying, may we join together with our neighbors and share in the food that has been brought. We further invite you to begin the work of renewal now, by taking a few moments to meet someone you might not yet know. Before we eat, let’s conclude our ceremony by singing ‘America the Beautiful.’ Thank you all for coming today.”
(Note: the full script for the “Flag Washing Ceremony” may be found at citizenscreative.wordpress.com.)