Flagging interest in patriotism
Back in the Jurassic Age, when a certain retired professor turned editor could count his year on two hands and one foot, putting up and taking down flags along Main St. was a somewhat arduous but highly coveted responsibility.
In those days, people with pickups actually used them as pickups, not as passenger cars. Anyone with a truck that had an empty bed was fair game to be volunteered to the sacred responsibility of showing then retiring our nation’s colors.
Shortly after sunrise, with father or grandfather driving, your professor-turned-editor was allowed to ride along, carefully unfurling each flag and placing it in a holder. Before sunset, the task was repeated in reverse, solemnly removing each flag and rolling it onto its pole for storage.
In those days, the flag was something not just special but honestly revered. A former printer’s “devil” who later went on to a celebrated military career used to recount how he raised and lowered the flag at a rural school.
The solemnity of the responsibility left him absolutely certain that if a flag even briefly touched the ground, J. Edgar Hoover himself would jump out from behind a bush and haul him off to jail.
In those days, Hoover, as FBI director, was the nation’s super G man — Elliot Ness on steroids. These days, many might joke that if Hoover jumped from behind a bush — or, more likely, out from a closet, he might be dressed in drag.
Attitudes and responsibilities have changed a lot now that your professor-turned-editor needs an extra nine hands and feet to count his age in years.
Nowhere was that more starkly apparent than when driving down Main St. in Marion at 1 a.m. Monday and seeing a full array of flags shivering silently, largely in the darkness, under an inch or more of accumulated sleet, ice, and snow. One of them even fell to the ground and was picked up by Marion police.
Somehow we’ve come believe that having a flag somewhere near a light means it is illuminated and thus can continue to be flown after a playing of “Taps” normally would retire it each night at a military base.
Flags are installed days in advance and not removed until weeks after whatever event they were placed to observe. And all this is done not by patriotic volunteers but by government workers who probably can’t be bothered to tend to the task more quickly.
If we really care so much about the flag that we now are forced to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at nearly every meeting, should we also not be showing enough respect for that flag that we don’t allow it to shiver under ice in the dark of night, barely illuminated by lights not specifically designated to shine on its stars and stripes?
These days, some citizens seem to worry about the federal government coming to take away their guns and seem to make political decisions on the basis on who would be most likely to fight back if Joe Biden were to become a Vladimir Putin and invade Marion County.
Where are those same people when it comes time to volunteer to treat the flag with the respect it deserves and raise and lower it each day?
As the courageous people of Ukraine can sadly attest, freedom isn’t cheap and often requires personal sacrifice. We can’t imagine them treating their flag the way we in America have treated ours.
— ERIC MEYER
Last modified March 9, 2022