Old Glory Flies Where Its Spirituality Is Recognized


This past Fourth of July there were at least three homes over which the American flag probably was not proudly flown.

We can be fairly certain one was that of former San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The highly paid professional football player refused to stand when the national anthem was played before his games as he proclaimed he would not stand "to show pride in the flag of a country that oppresses black people." Interestingly, although black, while Kaepernick was abandoned by his own parents, he was raised by a most loving white family.

"Kaepernickism" proved contagious as other minority-group members sought to register similar disgust for America.

Sadly, one was a member of the Armed Forces. Last Sept. 19, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Janeye Ervin refused to stand for the national anthem being played on a military base as the flag was raised for morning colors. Quickly punished for doing so, she, too, undoubtedly, did not fly the flag this past July 4.

Ervin, a reservist on active duty at the time, explained her rationale for disrespecting the flag to an interviewer, claiming she was making a statement about blacks being persecuted. She said, "I just didn't want to stand at that moment. I can't stand for this song knowing that the song isn't for me, being black. The song doesn't represent me at all. To be honest, I never really thought about the flag my entire life. I had no reason to. It's just a flag."

The Navy would tolerate none of it. Ervin, an intelligence specialist, was stripped of her military security clearances, which she also needed for her civilian job. While civilians cannot be held to a standard demanding they honor their flag, military personnel, by virtue of having taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, are. After all, we can hardly expect one to protect what one fails to respect.

Yet another house over which our flag did not fly July 4 was occupied by one choosing to disrespect it in a most egregious way that same day.

In the city of love where an iconic symbol of American independence for over two centuries - the Liberty Bell - hangs today, a young woman in Philadelphia undertook a most despicable act to dishonor the flag. Taking a selfie video, she then posted it on Facebook. In the privacy of her home, it showed the American flag spread out over her toilet as she smilingly urinated upon it. While Facebook eventually pulled the video, this classy lady, Emily Lance, seeking to further inflame those already offended, added the caption: "F- your nationalism. F- your country. F- your stupid f-ing flag."

While Lance provided no insights as to what her particular issue was with a country in which she had the right to perform such a perverted act, she, like Kaepernick and Ervin, obviously enjoyed her 15 minutes of fame, denigrating a symbol of democracy and freedom that the vast majority of us hold near and dear to our hearts.

For the rest of us, the flag is a symbol to which a certain sense of spirituality attaches, not only because of what it represents but due to a deep appreciation for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend it.

A question arises of these anti-flag protesters, now that they have dishonored the flag: "What now?" While their acts briefly won them the national spotlight they sought, what have they done with it to further promote their cause?

Interestingly, while Kaepernick did eventually return to standing for the national anthem (perhaps recognizing things were not as bad as he initially thought), it appears he, Ervin and Lance have done nothing of a positive nature to help point America in the direction they seek.

It is a sad commentary of our times young people such as these three have opted to demonstrate their personal dissatisfactions by dishonoring a symbol that really should serve as a rallying point for us all. Granted, America is not perfect by any means. But we all belong to the same 326 million-member-strong family. And, just as in the case of one's personal family where a member may test others, we recognize that family bond exists and must be honored - not dishonored. Accordingly, we work within it to resolve our differences while not offending the family name.

Earlier this month, Secretary of Defense James Mattis gave the graduation speech at West Point. He pointed out that a few miles outside of Washington, D.C., at the Antietam Battlefield Cemetery, is a statue of a Union soldier, standing at rest, overlooking his comrades' graves. The statue is inscribed with the words, "not for themselves, but for their country."

Mattis said, "How simple that thought. So long as our nation breeds ... defenders who look past the hot political rhetoric of our day and rally to our flag, that Army tradition of serving our country will never die."

It is standing under our flag that enables us to engage in "the hot political rhetoric of our day." But such rhetoric should never cause us to lose sight of the spirituality the flag holds. By dishonoring it, we dishonor not only ourselves but, more importantly, those who gave their all to defend it.

A version of this piece also appeared on http://www.wnd.com/     

Lt. Colonel James G. Zumwalt, USMC (Ret.), is a retired Marine infantry officer who served in the Vietnam war, the U.S. invasion of Panama and the first Gulf war. He is the author of "Bare Feet, Iron Will--Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam's Battlefields," "Living the Juche Lie: North Korea's Kim Dynasty" and "Doomsday: Iran--The Clock is Ticking." He frequently writes on foreign policy and defense issues.

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