Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life: Red, White and Blue. But Mostly Red. .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Red, White and Blue. But Mostly Red.

I attended a flag retirement ceremony this past weekend. In case you didn’t know, when a flag becomes unserviceable, it’s supposed to be retired in a dignified manner. This entails being separated into its component parts and consumed by a modest but dignified fire. As each component is consumed, attendees are asked to contemplate the meaning of each component.

First, the white stripes, which represent the purity of our democratic principles, are laid on the fire. This is where I got uneasy. I mean, I love this country dearly, and consider myself patriotic (and I mean sincerely patriotic, not just arrogantly shouting slogans), but I believe we’ve seriously deflowered the purity of our democratic principles. I support defending ourselves if we’re attacked, and would eagerly join the front line in that endeavor. But to start a war over oil or for revenge, and then attempt to justify it by claiming to bring democracy to the trampled masses? Puh-leez! Don’t insult my intelligence. And don’t expect me to send my sons or daughters to die for your arrogance.

Next, the red stripes are laid on the fire. These stripes represent the blood shed by those who’ve given the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our country. Here, I humbly bow to their selflessness. These are the true patriots. From before the Revolutionary War to the present, Americans have gone forth willingly to fight for what they believe is right. Those who died (and those who didn’t) deserve our deepest respect for stepping up when duty called, and putting their lives on the line when it really counted. Even if they died because of someone else’s arrogance or ignorance, they believed they were doing their duty, and deserve to be commended for it.

Finally, the union is laid on the fire. The blue field and white stars represent unity among all Americans. It represents an ideal unity, a unity that we have not seen since the aftermath of September 11, 2001. Remember when everyone had an American flag on their vehicle? They’ve since traded those vehicles in for Hummers and Lexuses (Lexi?), and you seldom see a flag on a vehicle anymore.

Sure, there are magnetic ribbons, but those are just to impress the neighbors. One store employee asked me if I wanted to buy one (“They’re on sale!”, she said). I asked how much of the proceeds went to support the troops, and she looked at me like I was crazy. Apparently I shouldn’t expect a ribbon that says “support the troops” to actually support the troops. And showing people that I support the troops is more important than actually supporting the troops. When I said “no, thanks”, she stared at me, almost as if she suspected me of being a terrorist disguised as an average white guy.

But I digress. Anyway, the ceremony was very touching, capped off by a haunting rendition of “Taps” played on a bugle in the distance. It reminded me of how lucky I was to be born in this country, where at least the ideals are noble, and I can question the leadership of this nation without fear of (too much) retribution.

We do, however, need to work on the ideals that the flag stands for. The red stripes are well represented, as there is no shortage of blood shed by patriots. But if we take the white stripes (purity) and the union (unity) out of the equation, we’re left with nothing but a Red Flag. And anyone who's ever been involved in running a business should understand what that implies.


  • As a vet, and a die hard progressive / liberal, I thank you for this post. I stumbled on your blog from a link to a link at a link (one of those type of deals), but you've done a very nice job of explaining a truly solemn ceremony, which is rooted in history.

    Yep, libs can love their country, too. We can also despise what it's become.

    By Blogger Richard Cranium, at 10:50 PM  

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