I don’t want to celebrate the Fourth of July this year. Well, that’s not exactly true. I really want to celebrate the birth of greatest experiment in democracy ever known, but I just don’t recognize her anymore.
My father flew B-25 bombers during World War II and I had five uncles who all served in various branches of the armed services. One was a tank commander in North Africa and is still classified as missing in action. My mother even felt the call to do her part and joined the original Women’s Army Corps when that was a very unpopular thing to do.
The Fourth of July celebrations of my youth revolved around celebrating this great nation and giving the absolute respect due her. We helped with American Legion floats for the parade in Washington and I still remember swelling up with great pride watching several uncles in the color guard, one carrying the American flag, and knowing from personal stories what they sacrificed to keep her gloriously flying. I recall an incident at the Legion when a bunch of us were running around and we ran into the flag pole on the stand in the hall and it began to topple over. Every man in the hall scrambled for that flag to keep her from touching the floor. The flag simply meant too much and represented much sacrifice to those men to ever let her disrespectfully touch the ground. We were provided an extensive lesson in flag etiquette that day.
As we got older, my grandmother would have us take the service foot lockers of my five uncles out of her basement a few weeks before the Fourth of July. She would take out the uniforms and hang them in the sun to air out. She carefully removed the tri-corner folded flag from two of the lockers that once draped the coffins of those two sons. They were tear-stained from years of the same ritual. That memory of the American flag is still embedded in my heart.
Why am I having difficulty in celebrating the Fourth this year? Great respect, honor and dignity were always shown to the American flag, but as I opened the Sunday paper, I saw ads for swim trunks with a representation of the flag, ads for televisions with the American flag across the screen and even napkins with the American flag. Would you have a picture of your mother printed on napkins and then wipe your mouth with them? Can you imagine the Chinese who make these napkins wondering why an American would want to wipe their hands on the symbol of their country? Even politicians, who theoretically should know better, put their signatures on flags and the flag code states: No mark shall be placed upon it.
The flag memories, along with articles in the Sunday paper about secret courts and secret government panels giving permission for secret phone call capturing, has made me wonder what has happened to my country. Didn’t Thomas Jefferson say something about government deriving its power from the consent of the governed.� I personally don’t care who looks at my phone records, but I don’t recall giving my �consent� for that.
Well, after venting here for the last few paragraphs I guess I will celebrate the Fourth of July after all, but I think I’ll just go to the cemetery and visit the graves of the family members who sacrificed for our liberty and died for that piece of cloth that represents this incredible country. She still waves gloriously�. So far.