I suppose it happened one time too many. On a torrid September afternoon outside an American Legion waterhole last week, four Harley Davidson motorcycles leaned listlessly on their stands. Just as forlorn hung the multiple United States flags each “Harley” had mounted showily above their rear wheels.
My blood boiled.
Was there a parade that day? No. These same motorcycles and their riders — and countless others like them — are seen nearly every day and everywhere, sporting our national symbol of freedom and unity as just one more item in their fashion accoutrement.
Apparently, the deep-throated roar and eye-squinting chrome of their “Hogs”, and their head to toe leather apparel with banners and slogans stitched on every available space is not attention grabbing enough. Nope, gotta bring in “Old Glory” to complete the ensemble.
This past summer, our flag stood watch over these motorcycles outside bars and liquor venues across the state. Not difficult to imagine the lubricating going on inside those brick walls. Maybe the riders are veterans, maybe not. Maybe even many have served in combat. If not, they should be told to very quietly and appropriately take down, fold, and store our flag for an appropriate occasion. If they are veterans, they should know better, and be ashamed.
Our flag is not, and never has been, a symbol meant to call attention to the personal glorification of any individual unless it is draped on the coffin of a veteran. If you really must, there are small decals of the stars and stripes you can place on your bumper or gas tank.
If you really must.
But why bring the flag into it? There are several rules and regulations governing the times, occasions, and manner of display of our flag. They all boil down to this: have respect, show respect. While it is specious and unthinking to say many have died for our flag, it is absolutely correct to note hundreds of thousands have paid the price of life and limb for what our flag represents: Our unified devotion to individual liberty protected by the rule of law.
If there can be a “sacred” secular symbol it is our flag.
And while I’m at it, I’d like to propose that the use of our flag for the personal, and therefore petty, personal advancement of career politicians be brought to a screeching halt. For those in elective office, when giving a speech or at an event directly related to their official duties, one flag should be present. No more backgrounds of wall to wall flags as the personal wallpaper of some pol promising a chicken in every pot.
I submit that I come by this affection for our flag sincerely. My father was a World War II combat veteran who only ever wore the flag in his heart. I learned from that. As a young enlisted man serving with the 1st Infantry Division in the mid to late eighties, I earned the honor of a spot on the Division Color Guard. We posted and marched with the flag at 4th of July parades and hundreds of other events and commitments from Salina, Kansas, to Chicago, Illinois.
I witnessed, always at the position of attention, the quiet reverence for her of tens of thousands of our citizens. It is from my heart, I say: May she ever only be furled and unfurled with proper dignity and respect.