My view

‘It’s my flag too’

Posted 6/12/24

‘It’s my flag too’

When I was growing up, the daughter of an army officer, the flag was always a prominent part of my life. On bases during reveille or retreat, all cars and …

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My view

‘It’s my flag too’


When I was growing up, the daughter of an army officer, the flag was always a prominent part of my life. On bases during reveille or retreat, all cars and pedestrians pause as the flag is raised or lowered.

The protocol for the treatment of the flag included never flying it at night and never letting it touch the ground. And when a flag became too battered to be flown, it was supposed to be disposed of with honor, as if it were a living thing.

A flag flew at our many homes, on base and off. We would raise it and lower it with my father, or just with my mother while he was in Vietnam. I vaguely recall sometimes playing retreat on the kazoo. That simple act of tribute was a daily part of our family life.

The flag was as present as the earth beneath our feet and the sky above us—so much so that I never really questioned why it would fly. 

Flags were in classrooms in public schools, and we would say the Pledge of Allegiance before our day began. I’m fairly sure most current school days no longer start with the Pledge of Allegiance.

Memories of the flag in my teenage years during the carnage of the Vietnam War and the very necessary civil unrest at home are of it burning in protests or covering coffins.

Our flag is present in art and fashion, though I could never bring myself to wear a sweater with the American flag on it, because I was raised never to let the flag touch the ground and to always fold it with respect. I’m not always that tidy with my apparel. 

Those of us who’ve lost parents in the military or in public service as first responders, either in action or after a long life have the flags from funerals perfectly folded and often protected in glass cases displayed in a place of pride. Our political leaders lie in state under the U.S. flag. 

The burning of the flag in protest is a powerful symbol. From my perspective, it represents not a lack of respect for the flag, but rather a respect for everything it stands for—including freedom of expression and the liberty to engage in angry but peaceful civil protest.

During the last senatorial election here in Pennsylvania, I moved my flag from my house to a more visible place on my 19th-century barn, which is right by the road. 

As in so many communities in this purple state, Democrats and Republicans cohabit peacefully. One of them, a long-time “liberal” activist, called me up and asked, “Are you Republican now? Why are you flying the flag?” Stunned but not entirely surprised, I could only answer, “It’s my flag too.”

I went to a college whose most famous graduate is Francis Scott Key, who wrote the song about the flag that few of us can sing on key. It’s now our national anthem.

And just as some of us have great difficulty singing the song, some of us also have complex responses to the American flag.

Our world is permeated with branding and identity. People wear symbols of all kinds. And the symbols connect deeply. While visiting someone in a psychiatric ward in Manhattan, one of the patients immediately responded to the jeans I was wearing because she saw the label. And I thought how absolutely remarkable that this person—who could barely function—connected to the label I was wearing on the waistband of my jeans. 

By the time my daughter started public school in New York City, there was no Pledge of Allegiance in the classroom and no singing of the national anthem. I suggested to one parent that we do that, and she was immediately offended. The school primarily comprised Dominican students, with a small group of native-born parents, of which she was one.

So I offered a compromise. We could at least have the kids sing “America the Beautiful,” not our virtually unsingable national anthem. She dismissed the idea, as did other parents who were active in the PTA.

The separation of church and state is an integral part of our constitution.

Prayer and religious education in public schools ostracize that part of the community with a different faith or not at all. The flag and the Pledge of Allegiance in classrooms is something very different. 

The flag and the pledge represent that we are an autonomous nation. Wherever we have come from or what colors we are, whatever we choose for our private and public lives—and our politics—we all are united under its Stars and Stripes and the pledge we recite before it.

On Flag Day 2024, as opposing parties gather for what is obviously going to be a another contentious election, let’s remember as we fly the flag and salute it—or choose not to—that we are greater than our differences.

We are one nation, ultimately indivisible pledged to Liberty and Justice for all.

Cynthia Nash lives in Milanville, PA.

flag, democrat, republican, patriotism, my view


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