My father loved to fly the flag. On patriotic holidays, he would lean out of second story windows to secure and suspend the huge ship’s flag that had belonged to his grandfather. He was always cheerful as he hung it just right, neither too high nor too low, and certainly never crooked. As a veteran of World War II, he shared his generation’s unabashed love of country. He spent nearly his entire career in public service, and I learned from him to treat such service as a privilege and a source of pride. His particular interests were education and civil rights, but his passions were fairness and accuracy.
Abraham Lincoln was his hero and the Lincoln Memorial his place to contemplate. I remember well our many family visits there, solemnly reading aloud from the writings of Lincoln that were engraved on the marble walls. My father loved the flag because it symbolized the principles of union and equality expressed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. That love and understanding was his greatest gift to his children.
[1. “Free” Photograph by ShainaHedlundPhoto 2. Whistle by BottleCapWhistles 3. Photo Lamp by Maryjaneappel 4. “America the Beautiful” Woodcut by Tugboatprintshop 5. Vintage Platforms from Youngandukraine]
My generation has had a more complicated relationship with the American flag. Most of my life, the flag has been less a symbol of a united country than an icon of difference and polarization. Nonetheless, I honor my father’s tradition and display my flag on the appropriate holidays.
Blessings are said to emanate with every wave of a Tibetan prayer flag. Perhaps that is true of all flags. I know I would prefer to think of flags as symbols of welcome.
[1. Jamaica Dress by Zigzagflag 2. Vintage Photo from Gwensewvintage 3. Flag Hat by Akiseo 4. Four Dog Flag by LaboniJunction 5. Texas Flag Cookies by SunshineBakes 6. Union Jack Throw Pillow by IconicPillows]
My favorite display of national flags is during the Olympics when so many countries gather in peaceful, fierce, and colorful competition. I love to see all the happy and excited young athletes swirling together, the flags becoming a patchwork of blended boundaries and melodies. The nightly news provides so many opportunities for cynicism and despair; I cherish the moments of joy and optimism.