Memorial Day: where were the flags?
Now that President Obama is back from Chicago, fresh from declaring June, 2010, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender month, I’d like to memorialize Memorial Day. It’s not dead (yet), but like other American traditions (marriage, a strong military), it’s dying, and a genuine symptom is the absence of the flag.
In the last month, we’ve seen Old Glory banned from apartments, offend Mexicans in our schools, and disgust teachers who believe it should be censored. We had a president hold a press conference – the first of its kind? – without a flag (or a clue.)
On Memorial Day, I figured this would stop. In honor of those who perished defending Freedom, citizens would fly the flag. Though, I live in Portland, Oregon, in a county (Multnomah) that broke 77% for Obama, on Memorial Day pride would trump politics. The banner would shine!
I was wrong. In this working-class neighborhood, it was just another day. Up and down my block, among forty-three houses, two, including mine, displayed the flag. The next block presented zero. The next block, one.
This is what happens to a country without leaders. The historical covenant isn’t shared. The freest nation in history has a problem when its president bows to despots, promotes “bonds” over borders, and claims “exceptionalism” is relative.
America is exceptional. And since real history lies in the ground, I drove to Fort Lewis to pay my respects. Along the way, I passed hundreds of houses, the pattern similar to the one I’d departed.
Forty houses—flag…. Fifty houses—flag.
I didn’t dwell on an island, the apathy was real. “Ho hum” had replaced “gung ho.”
But I did discover flags. The tradition of honoring the battle-weary by painstakingly planting a tiny stick with a tiny attached banner above their resting place is redemptive, and I recognized promise. I made a point of walking past the stones, to nod and read the names.
But then I came to a row lacking names, markers whose bodies weren’t identified. Known but to God, these men died for Freedom. What would they say to the flagless, I wondered. What would the flagless say to them?
Later that night, I caught a glimpse of the moon. It’s largely unknown, but there’s a flag up there.