What, after all, is the flag?

We’ve been seeing the flag a lot these last few days. It’s gotten me thinking quite a bit.

I pledge allegiance to the flag,
of the United States of America,
and to the Republic for which it stands,
one nation, under God,
with liberty and justice for all.

When I started school, back in the dark ages, we said the Pledge of Allegiance every morning.

Today I see the flag as being abused: used by people who are not paying attention to the point of the flag, as clearly stated in the pledge of allegiance.

Specifically, the flag is a symbol, it stands for our Republic. Our Republic, which is defined by our constitution.

We see people who are happy to do unconstitutional acts or have them committed, and not fulfill oaths to protect and defend the constitution, yet make grand-standing statements about the flag?

When people do not follow and do not enforce the constitution that they have sworn to uphold, they are doing worse than burning the flag. They are symbolically pooping and piddling on it. They turn it from a symbol into a rag…but treat it as an idol.

What turns a symbol into an idol?

I think that there are many in the USA who have forgotten that the flag is a symbol. They have started to respect, in some cases worship, the physical item and not the “republic for which it stands”.

When I was in about 3rd grade we stopped saying the Pledge every morning. This was because of Jehovah’s Witnesses; I am not sure if it was a law suit or just complaints (I was pretty young). I couldn’t at the time understand why that was a big deal. We said “one nation under God” and to my mind that had things in order.

It was not until I was an adult that I got it. We had some folks from the American Legion come and give my son’s Cub Scout den a presentation about flag etiquette. I was struck how similarly they treated the flag to how many in the more liturgical traditions treat the Cross of Jesus. Those same traditions are sometimes criticized by some protestant sects for idolatry.

I found that flag etiquette presentation rather creepy, to be honest, and I finally understood why the Jehovah’s Witnesses had a problem with it back when I was a kid.

As an adult I was deeply involved with my Episcopal Church for many years and participated and led adult education programs, Bible studies and discussions. As part of these the topic of the Ten Commandments would come up now and then. We discussed the idea of when is something an idol that you are worshiping: is the Cross an idol? how about those who use icons as part of their worship? Of course, there are no exact answers, because, on a fundamental level, it is what is in your heart that makes the difference.

So, in the third grade, I saw the flag as a symbol, on some level I regarded the Pledge of Allegiance as the philosophy for how to see it: as something that stands for our republic. I understood the one nation to be under God (not to be worshiped like God).

What does “liberty and justice for all” actually mean?

Of all the ideas presented in the Constitution the one chosen to include in the pledge as what the flag symbolizes is liberty and justice for all.

I had to learn that it was not true through the years, culminating this year as I became aware of how very much it is not true for people of color.

But I want it to be true.

How about you?

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