The American flag has a proud history. From its earliest days it has marched through battlefields and stood as a strong symbol of freedom for those who fight in its name. It has given them the will to fight on when all seemed hopeless and its vibrant colors have symbolized hopeless defeat for those who would harm us. The American flag has been taken down from its lofty perch for occasions such as to cover the coffin of a dead hero at his funeral, or to bind the wound of a wounded soldier when no other bandage was available, yet even at these less-than-proud moments, this flag has retained its pride. In fact, you could even say that these moments are when this flag has been at its most vibrant.
I was born and raised in the U.S. of A. I never had much pride in my country. I never thought much of its flag. I passed the days thinking of all the things that are horribly wrong with this country and I dreamed of the day when I would be able to leave it for someplace better.
I have seen the American flag at its very worst. I have seen it hanging, sun-bleached and wind-tattered, carelessly abandoned to the mercy of the elements. I have seen it lying, soggy and trampled, in the gutters of the cities it stands for. I have seen it, on television, being set on fire by the very people it protects.
I didn’t think much of the American flag. I thought of it as being very similar to my father: A once-upon-a time great hero that had been forgotten by time and left to rot in its easy chair, watching old movies on the television and passing the remainder of its days desperately ignoring the wretched and decaying present and instead remembering the way things once were.
I didn’t think much of the American flag, until I left the lands it stands for behind and traveled to a foreign land. I was being driven through the very small American military base that occupied a small area of that distant land. As we were driving along and I was thinking how nice it was to be in a foreign land (even if I WAS still on U.S property) when I happened to look out the window and found my gaze pulled to the top of a nearby hill. On this highest point in the very center of the base that seemed to be watching over all that surrounded it, on this point there was no building. There was only a pole, a very large, very tall, simple silver pole. And on this pole was the proudest American flag I’ve ever seen.
I looked at that flag; beautiful, gigantic, and made with the very brightest shades of red, white and blue. I looked at it standing poised on that hill, defiantly stabbing its way into the sky. I watched its stripes waving majestically as if both gently caressing the breeze and simultaneously, sternly commanding it to blow in such a way as to display the flag in the best possible form.
I looked at that flag and was struck by so many emotions I didn’t know what to feel. And as these emotions were racing through me, one thought came prominently to the forefront of my mind: How strange it is, that only here, in a foreign land, where the people who defend that flag and all that it stands for, endure hardship and are deprived of many of the comforts that most American citizens enjoy, only here does that flag still garner the same respect, loyalty and earnest love that it received so many years ago. Only here does it still shine brightly and wave with such pride and quiet strength.
Wouldn’t it make more sense for that flag to receive LESS gratitude from the people who slave under it without receiving many of the benefits? Wouldn’t it make more sense for that flag to receive NOTHING BUT gratitude and respect from the people back home who get so many wonderful benefits while never having to do anything to earn them?
I don’t understand it. I don’t know what it means. But I know something is very wrong. I know it makes me very sad. I know that I am eternally thankful that I was able to come on this journey and have my eyes opened.
And I know that something needs, very desperately, to be fixed.