Tag Archives: Independence Day

Flag

We’re coming up on American Independence Day and the stars and stripes are already in full force, decorating yards and businesses in preparation of the picnics and retail sales events to come.

I don’t really do flags.

Oh sure, I enjoy seeing them go up during the Olympics, accompanied by their associated national anthems.  But in recent years, I’ve become less concerned with which flag was making that ritual ascent.  The Games provide me an opportunity to learn about the symbolism of other nations, to hear the strains of music that fill them with national pride.

But I am not, myself, emotionally moved by these displays.

Old Glory

UnitedStatesFlagWhen I was in High School, there were a couple years that I was responsible for raising the flag in the mornings and pulling it down again at the end of the school day.

This started out as a punishment.

I was stuck in detention for a week, due to an offense I have long forgotten, and as a result, I found myself doing my work at a desk in the back corner of the Principals office.  And it wasn’t a bad deal.  Mr. Walker was a kindly old fellow, filled with good stories, and his secretary kept me well supplied with snacks throughout the week.

Without the distraction of my fellow students, the schoolwork went more quickly, and so my extra time was filled with various duties around the campus.  One of which, was the raising and lowering of the flag, which I did with special attention to all the little customs that go along with the job.

I guess Mr. Walker noticed how careful I was to never let the flag touch the ground, and how I folded it the proper way before stowing upon the shelf in his office where it spent the night, because when my sentence was done, he asked me if I’d be willing to keep the job.

I was happy to do it.

But it was never about the flag.  It was the ritual of it that appealed to me, even then.

I won’t pledge allegiance to it.  Not until the words “Under God” are stricken from the oath.  I find it reprehensible that small children, far too young to know the import of their words, are coaxed into daily submission to something they cannot understand.

In total honesty, I doubt I would speak the pledge, even if the wording officially reverted back to the more constitutionally sound, pre-1950’s version.  The American Flag has been used as blanket to cover too many crimes and atrocities.  I see the ideals for which it stands, yes, but not without the blemish.  There are too many stains in the fabric for me to treat it with the holy reverence that so many others seem to show.

Now, before you question my patriotism, I’d ask you to just run a copy of the Bill of Rights up that flag pole.  I’ll put my hand over my heart and demonstrate for you all the pride and reverence you could hope for.

A flag is a symbol, and symbols may be misused.  The Constitution and the Bill of Rights are a promise worth far more than a few colored strips of cloth.

The Stars and Bars

BattleFlagYes, I know.

I’ve heard the excuses all of my life.

It was never the flag of the Confederacy.  It’s a symbol of pride in our southern heritage, not a symbol of hate or racism.  The American Civil War was never about slavery, it was about states rights.

I’ve heard the excuses, and every one of them is true.

But here is another truth.  The culture of the South, with all of its celebrated gentility and plain-spoken charm, was built on the backs of people who were traded and bred and worked in the fields like animals.  Whatever the legal or political arguments may have been for the autonomy of individual states within the Union, the single issue important enough to drive those states to succession, was the right of one man to own another.

However you might want to spin the facts, the reality of the situation is that the armies who marched under this banner were fighting and dying to preserve a way of life founded at the expense of human dignity.

I do not curse the men.  Throughout history, many good men have been swept into wars with which they may not have agreed, if only to protect their homes and family.  These brave soldiers should be remembered and celebrated because they fought with courage, and because the blood of their sacrifice opened a door to freedom that had not existed before.

I’ll honor the men, but not the Cause.

The Confederate States of America were defeated, and they deserved to be defeated.

A symbol of southern heritage, to be remembered not with pride and pomp, but with sombre reflection.

That flag is dripping in blood, some of it very fresh, because there are still those among us who would turn back the clock.  And to them I say, “Be careful what you wish for.”

Rainbow Pride

GayPrideRainbowI will say, it was awesome to see so many people waving this flag in front of the Supreme Court building on Friday.  And then throughout the country in the days that followed.

Admittedly, as flags go, it’s a tad garish for my personal taste, but its bright colors certainly fit the joy attendant with the occasion.  Indeed, I joined many of my friends – most of them heterosexual – in decorating my Facebook profile picture with a rainbow overlay – in support and solidarity with our homosexual friends and family members who have finally gained a legal recognition so long denied them.

In an amusing twist, I’ve seen a very small number of people complaining that the rainbow symbol has been subverted by the Gay Community, because according to the Bible, the rainbow marks the promise from their god that he will never destroy the world again by water.

Ummmm…., yeah.

A rainbow is created by the refraction of light through the natural prism of a rain shower.  Symbolically, it is much better suited as a emblem of diversity, than as a reminder that the Hebrew god is said to have felt bad after drowning millions of innocent animals in a world-wide temper tantrum.

So no, you can’t have your symbol back.

The International Flag of the Planet Earth

PlanetEarthFlagI first started hearing about this one a couple weeks ago.

Seems there was a bit of controversy surrounding the suggestion that when men land on the Planet Mars (sometime next decade, I’m not holding my breath) they will plant this flag, instead of the American flag.

I really don’t see the fuss.

I mean, given current funding levels, and a general distaste for science among a frightfully large segment of our legislature, it seems quite likely that any manned mission to Mars will be somewhat of an international effort anyway.  This assuming it’s not an entirely corporate venture, complete with spacecraft riddled with more corporate logos than a NASCAR vehicle.

As flags go, it’s a pretty nice design.

The rings have an olympic quality to them, but the arrangement reminds me of a Celtic Knotwork pattern.  It speaks of diversity and unity, of one place with multiple truths.

These are ideas I can get behind.

We’ve got to set aside this notion that we can claim a place just because we stuck a flag in the ground there.  That kind of thinking has caused us a lot of misery in the past.

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The Goddess in the Harbor

There are days when I close my eyes, and I see her like this…,

The Struggle of Liberty

She struggles against those who would pull her down and extinguish the light she has held aloft for so long.  The torch has fallen and she reaches for it while the guttering flame casts eerie shadows all about her struggling form.

Her assailants rise above her, but who are they?

Who threatens the Goddess?

They do not hail from any foreign land.  It is no invading army that threatens her reign.  These are her own children, grown up in the light of freedom, which seek to break her will.

They love ‘the cross’ more than they do the Constitution and they are descended from the very same rabble who pulled down the statues of her brothers and sisters, looting the temples of ancient Rome, and murdering their priests.

How long before they rise up and try to pull down her greatest effigy?

Liberty!   Goddess!

They may call themselves “True Americans” and they may speak of our origins as a “Christian Nation”, but their claims are false.  One cannot love Liberty while seeking to chain all men to the worship of a single god through false claims of tradition.  Liberty breaks all chains and will tolerate no masters.

History will not bend to their will.  Here is an image of the goddess, stamped into the coins of the American Revolution nearly a hundred years before anyone ever read the words “In God We Trust”…,

Liberty Ha'Penny

Her enemies, her wayward children, they fume and they howl in their impotent rage.  They seek to twist the laws of the land to reflect their own vision of a world that will never be.  They will not rest until their God rules unquestioned over the whole of the land, but they don’t understand that he can never rule here.  This nation was born in Liberty, and if you thrust her aside, if her divine light is extinguished, the nation dies with her.

They may have the one, or the other, but never both.

This nation, these United States, belong to Liberty.

She stands, the Goddess in the Harbor of our greatest city, shining her light out for all the world to see.  Over four million people a year make pilgrimage to her great statue, her weathered copper shrine.  I have only ever come this close…,

Goddess In The Harbor

I hope one day to return and gaze again upon Liberty Enlightening the World.  And in the meantime, I hope that we, her children, will work to keep that flame burning brightly for all time.  Remember her in your prayers, this Independence Day.

She is the promise made, that we must keep.

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Seeking my inner patriot.

Perhaps you have heard of “Christmas Depression”.

It’s a fairly well known condition that seems to be caused by a combination of lowering winter daylight levels and increased social pressures associated with the holiday season.  In other words: you already feel miserable and everyone’s expectation that you should feel “jolly” only manages to make things worse.

I’ve seen polls that show almost half of the population has experienced these “holiday doldrums” to some degree.

Typically, as the holiday season recedes, and the days grow longer through the seasonal shift from winter to spring to summer, the depression also dulls, replaced by a happier attitude.

In rare cases, this cycle seems to be reversed and longer days bring darker moods.

So here it is…,

I have a hard time with Independence Day.

There, I admitted it, and it’s not an easy admission to make.

There are so many pressures to get out there and furiously wave our little flags and declare for all to hear our unabashed love of country.

Are you not grateful for the many freedoms you possess?

Have you no honor for the thousands who have died to defend your liberty?

Have you no national pride?

And I do feel some measure of pride to be sure, but it is a pride more focused on the individual than on the institution.  I am proud of those who have, over the years, stood up and fought against a system that seems hell-bent on denying liberty and equal-rights to all.  Yet, for every measure of pride I feel, there is a much greater quantity of sorrow and shame that these battles must be fought at all.

And then fought again, and again, and again.

As I sit up through the late hours of the evening to watch a woman filibuster the Texas legislature, whatever pride I feel in her efforts is overwhelmed by disgust as I watch lawmakers breaking their own rules and then falsifying their own records in an attempt to ram through a law that their constituents never asked for and which is itself, a lie of the worst order.

When, on the following morning, I hear the happy news that DOMA has been struck down by the Supreme Court, my pleasure is tempered as scores of religious demagogues begin to shout and bluster that the end-times must truly be upon us.

Sorry folks, the combination of dirty, religion soaked politics and blistering Texas heat, do not put me in the mood for a heaping slice of apple pie.

And yet, I know that my spirits should be lifted in these days.

The forces arrayed against us may curse and cheat and wave their flags in our faces until the fabric begins to shred, but the smell coming off of them in these hot Summer days is not one of conviction.

It is the stink of fear.

As they begin to see more clearly that the tides turned are against them, that fear will only grow, and like our friends in Austin, they will do all they can to turn back the clock.

July 4th Parade

And so I say to all those who love the Summer sun, and who are roused by parades and picnics and the red, the white, and the blue, to you I wish a happy and peaceful Independence Day.

I will keep to myself in a nice shady spot, away from the crowds and the bluster.  Perhaps I will watch the fireworks from a distance, (it’s the one tradition associated with this time of year that I have always enjoyed) and I will do my best not to rain on anyone’s parade.

Oh, but gods, what I wouldn’t give for a nice refreshing rain, just about now!

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Of Love and Liberty

Independence Day is upon us here in the ol’ U.S. of A.  It’s that time of year when we Americans dress our yards up in red, white and blue streamers, host holiday cookouts, and (if you live in town) travel outside the city limits to purchase boxes of illegal fireworks to be set off in our backyards.  Here in Texas we’ll be doing all these things despite the oppressive heat, drought warnings and swarming mosquitos the size of low-flying aircraft.

Perhaps the most fascinating thing to me about the July 4th holiday is that while we may call it our nations birthday, it is actually nothing of the sort.  Rather, it’s the anniversary of the beginning of a bad breakup.  It marks the moment when we figuratively looked into Great Britain’s eyes and said, “Yeah, we need to talk”.

We are, after all, talking about the signing of the Declaration of Independence here: arguably the single most famous “Dear John” letter ever put to paper.  Our attention, I would say, was on getting out of a bad relationship and not on getting into another.

Admittedly, the phrase “United States of America” did appear in the Declaration; it could be argued that we already had our eye on someone else (and isn’t that why most relationships end).  However, we didn’t officially become the United States of America until the ratification of the Articles of Confederation in November
of 1777.

Even then, it wasn’t until 1781 that the British finally took the hint and stopped hounding us with Redcoats and badly edited mix-tapes.  There we were after years of war, single at last and free to pursue happiness with an exciting new Republic.

Is it strange that we do not celebrate those anniversaries?

Frankly, I think it says a lot about our current “relationship” that we are so focused on remembering our falling out with the English.  By reminding ourselves every year that we are free of the one who abused us, we are able to ignore certain inadequacies in our present situation.

Perhaps it’s because the U.S. was the rebound relationship.  We never really got out there and enjoyed our single life and liberty.  No sooner had the last of King George’s boxes been taped up and set out on the curb than we were picking out china patterns with someone else.

Maybe we moved too fast?

I dare say, we certainly had our problems right from the start.  There was the deplorable manner in which we treated the people who were living in the apartment when we moved in.  “Hi, folks, we’re the new roommates, hope you don’t mind moving into the cabinet under the stairs.”

Hell, we almost tore the whole thing apart in the 1860’s trying to decide if that whole “all men created equal” thing was heartfelt or just another cheesy pick-up line.

That was a pretty rough patch and we really wondered if we’d get through it together.  With some hard work and not a little pain and sacrifice we did make it.  And on the whole, things seemed to be getting better.  Or maybe that’s just what we told ourselves so we could sleep at night.

The truth is, we were pretty badly burned by our relationship with the British.  When we started things off with the U.S. we were feeling used and vulnerable.  It’s understandable that we would want to avoid making the same mistakes again.

Promises were made.  Assurances given.  A Bill of Rights passed.  Yet still over 200 years after the fact we are fighting tooth and nail just to get what we asked for.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

How hard is this?  Really!

We’ve agreed to keep church out of the business of government and government out of the business of church.  We are guaranteed the right to peaceably gather in protest and to express ourselves publicly and in full view of an unhindered press.  It’s not really that difficult a concept to grasp.

And what do we get instead?  How about “In God We Trust” stamped on our money and “One Nation Under God” wedged into the pledge that we ask our children to recite every morning.  Our tax dollars are funneled into Faith Based Initiatives and legislating the Defense of Marriage Act while our leaders gather at the National Prayer Breakfast complaining about a “war on religion”.  Soon enough I expect we will be paying for School Vouchers that will be used to send kids to private religious schools where they can learn about “Intelligent Design” without the ACLU bothering them.  All the while, our Public School system crumbles from lack of funding.

I’m an American and a Polytheist.  I’ve got the taxation.  Where is MY representation?

I love my country.  I really do.  We have made some wonderful memories together.  There are days however, when I wonder if we are truly made for each other.  I grow weary of the constant bickering and broken promises.  Is this what they call “Democracy in Action” or is it a sign that we are growing apart?

I guess we will just have to grill our hamburgers, set off our fireworks and put the big questions off for the moment.  Maybe things will look better in the morning after the smoke has cleared and all the plastic cups and plates have been cleared away.  Maybe we can put “the talk” off for a while yet.

Until then it would be wise to remember that…,

To him in whom love dwells, the whole world is but one family.
~Buddha

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