Sometimes I wonder what branch of the military holds the flag to more reverence? Having served in the Navy, I tend to believe the level of traditions there may have a long history of Flag and Colors ceremonies.
My indoctrination to Flag worship was in kindergarten. I remember we had to stand up every morning at 8am, put our right hand over our hearts and say the pledge. Not that we really understood what it meant or why, but it was something that brought us together.
I remember looking at a full length mirror in Mrs Schultz class, and next to the mirror was a photo of Then President Ford. It had a caption that said “Our President”. I don’t know if we spend much time these days trying to instill pride and patriotism into our posterities? And I don’t believe that pride in one’s country is a bad thing to have at all.
But let’s go down a path of conversation for just a moment. The problem with the pledge, is the idea that we pledge to the flag and the flag is first and foremost. Not only that, people won’t say the pledge unless there is a flag in the room, and then, they must turn and face the flag. Excuse me, but I think we are out of control with this level of protocol.
This reminds me of the Story of Abraham and the idols. Maybe you’ve heard it. Abraham is at his father’s idol store where he sells all sorts of great idols, big ones, little ones, etc. His father says, I have to go please mind the store while I’m gone. Abraham already rationalized that there was nothing to these idols, they were just stone statues. He began to destroy all of the idols, except a little one that he placed in the center of the store. When is father came back, he was angry, what did you do to the idols, he demanded to know.
Abraham replied, while you were gone the big idols made fun of the small idol and the small idol smited all the large idols. And from that point Abraham was on the run.
The point is, people know these things aren’t real, and yet they still put their minds to focus on them.
But there is another story I want to tell, and it comes from the Movie, the Frisco Kid, staring Gene Wilder (Avram) and Harrison Ford (Tommy).
Gene Wilder plays a Rabbi traveling from Europe to San Fransisco. On his way he is befriended by a Robber turned friend, played by Ford.
There is a scene where Wilder seemingly makes a choice between saving his friend and saving the Torah. Later this conversation transpired:
Avram: I told you that I can’t be a rabbi.
Tommy: [Tommy hurls a piece of bread at him] Don’t you tell me that. Just don’t say that again. Not after what I’ve been through to get your goddamn ass here alive. If you hadn’t have shot that man, then we’d both be dead. Do you understand that, you ignorant asshole? You do understand that? He was gonna kill you and then he was gonna kill me, am I right? When you shot that son of a bitch, that was not a sin. Then what the hell are we talking about?
Avram: When those men were shooting at you, I ran to save the Torah.
Tommy: So? I understand that. You’re a man of God. I understand that.
Avram: I wasn’t thinking about God. I didn’t do it because of God. I don’t know one thing about God. I was thinking about a book. I cared more for a book than I did for my best friend. I don’t know if you can understand that. I don’t want to insult you. But do you understand what I mean? I chose a piece of paper instead of you!
When we start worshipping things, important as they may seem, over loving our fellow man, we lose every time.
Religions all put people above things and idolatry. Yet this flag obsession is love of country. And it has turned neighbors against neighbor. It has become a golden calf of a new generation instead of the symbol of hope and freedom. Let’s restore it’s true meaning and give it the dignity that it should get without making it something it is not.