It waves in the wind. Politicians embrace it. It marks veterans’ graves. It covers caskets. It draws derision and abuse from enemies.
It is often found on men and women’s lapels. It can be seen on shorts, ties and shorts. It is unmistakable.
It also represents free speech, particularly when some Americans, angry about war or U. S. policies, decide to burn or stomp on it. Or people in foreign countries do the same to exemplify their hatred of our nation.
It never changes its colors or stripes. It waves in the wind but does not change according to whim or wretched behavior.
Of course, I am talking about Old Glory, our American flag and symbol of freedom and liberty. Today is Flag Day, established June 14, 1877, the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the Stars and Stripes by the Continental Congress. June 14 is always the date, often ignored or even unknown by most.
I do not suggest that Flag Day become a national holiday marked by closed schools and banks. That would be foolhardy.
I do suggest, however, we pay reverence to a piece of cloth, often subject to bad weather, bad temper and poor care. It is a textile product that withstands constantly changing styles and lifestyles. It need not change. It is an irreplaceable brand.
Though I honor the First Amendment and understand the desecration of our banner as free speech, I cringe with disdain when I watch news reports about hoodlums setting fire to our flag. I take personal offense. I view it as an inexcusable act of violence. I feel nauseated.
I feel equally repelled when I see a Confederate Flag flying from the back of a pick-up truck. It represents disunity and discrimination. It disgusts me.
I am no better a patriot than the next person. I do not pretend to be the savior of the flame. Maybe naively, I assign a sacred value to our beautiful flag. I feel ownership of our national standard and the strongly debated values of diversity, hope, steadfastness and opportunity.
When I attend a graveside burial of a veteran, I watch intently when servicepersons fold the flag so precisely and faithfully and then give it to the widow or widower or mother. I never tire of watching this ritual, trying hard to control my emotions.
Why is it so important to conduct this artful slice of drama? Because the exquisitely folded flag represents gratitude for military service, a gesture that remains solemn and sincere.
Our American flag bears no cynicism or divisiveness. It appeals to the best of us, if only briefly, to protect our values and honor our forebears. It reminds us we can rise above hatred and bigotry if we so choose.
This piece of cloth has no designer label. In its bright, colorful way, it speaks to consistency of purpose and unity, though hard to achieve, but obligatory to strive to accomplish.
Our flag flies proudly through natural and political storms and turmoil. It takes no partisan sides. It embodies unity, a rare commodity.
God Bless America.
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.