Patriot Day

Patriot Day

“Our country is not the only thing to which we owe our allegiance. It is also
owed to justice and to humanity. Patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong.”
~James Bryce

I am not what you would call patriotic. I do not say things like “my country, right or wrong.” I do not even want to hear Lee Greenwood’s “I’m Proud to Be an American.” I do not get tears in my eyes when someone sings “The Star-Spangled Banner” or “America the Beautiful”—I do not stand at attention or salute the flag if I can help it. I do not celebrate Independence Day—though I do occasionally watch a Capitol Fourth (PBS-TV), Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, and C-Span. And I will not be celebrating the tenth anniversary of 9/11—Patriot Day—maybe grieving, but not celebrating. The day the World Trade Center collapsed like a controlled demolition, I watched in horror, believing then, believing now, that it was a false flag operation.

But my lack of flag-waving patriotism does not mean I am unAmerican. I am as American by birth as anyone else born in this country—since I am older and been here longer, maybe more so—but I consider nationality nothing more than a simple stat like race or gender—everyone has to be born somewhere. Having grown up singing “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” and watching TV Westerns, I am partial to American history, American literature, and American products (even if you cannot separate the imbedded Chinese-made raw ingredients). If you knew me, you would know that I am a vast fountain of information about this country. I am loyal and prejudiced to America and its people. And I do respect the American flag and, thanks to the bountiful goodness of someone who gave it to me, I own a splendid edition.

“Behold a republic standing erect while empires all around are bowed beneath the weight of their own armaments—a republic whose flag is loved while other flags are only feared.” ~William Jennings Bryan

You know the story: 13 September 1814, British warships were bombarding Fort McHenry. Inside the fort American cannons had a range of 1.5 miles; British cannons, a range of 2 miles; British rockets, a range of 1.75-mile. Because of sunken ships and American cannons, British ships could not get past the fort, into Baltimore Harbor. So they were unsuccessfully firing their inaccurate rockets and mortars. Not much was accomplished on either side, but next morning, 14 September, the British ceased their attack and so the naval push was repulsed, the only British casualty being a ship that took a direct hit and a man injured. American casualties were heavier: four killed, more than twenty wounded. A bomb had crashed the fort’s powder magazine, but, fortunately, had failed to explode.

Earlier, anticipating the British attack, a lady, Mary Pickersgill, had provided the fort an oversized American flag. Meanwhile, a Washington attorney, Francis Scott Key, who just happened to be in Baltimore on business, witnessed the bombardment from a nearby truce ship. When Key saw that huge flag on the morning of 14 September, he was so moved that he began to pen the words to what became our national anthem:

Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave? ~Francis Scott Key

The music was adopted from “The Anacreontic Song,” composed by John Stafford Smith, a British composer and admirer of Johann Sebastian Bach.

A half-century later, during the War Between the States, an ensign got in advance of the faltering lines. The flag was in danger of being captured. The captain shouted: “Bring the colors!” Then a soldier dashed forward: “Bring the company up to the colors!” Soon the flag was surrounded by a company of fearless hearts.

“If you are ashamed to stand by your colors, you had better seek another flag.” ~Anonymous

On 23 February 1945 five Marines and a US Navy corpsman raised the American flag atop Mount Suribachi at the Battle of Iwo Jima. Of those six men, three did not survive the battle. That morning Mount Suribachi was effectively cut off from the rest of the island. The Marines knew the Japanese had an extensive network of underground defenses, and American soldiers were vulnerable to Japanese from below. Anticipating a fight, or an ambush, Colonel Chandler Johnson sent a platoon of Marines, with a flag, to climb Suribachi; if they reached the summit, they were to hoist the flag. The men began the ascent, expecting a fight, but reached the top without incident and hoisted the flag over Mount Suribachi. It was the first foreign flag to fly on Japanese soil.

September, 1943, in a small, bomb-stricken town in Italy, a young boy, John A Delizza, and his friends were looking for food. They were starving—and scared, because the enemy was all around. All of a sudden they heard the terrible noise. Tanks! On the move! Coming this way! Germans!

Then, out of the smoke rose the most beautiful sight a starving boy could wish for! Old Glory. Not Germans—Americans! Fear gave way to freedom—no more war!

The youngsters ran home, to loved ones hiding in wells, hide-outs, caves. “Come! The Americans are here! You can come out now! Everything’s gonna be alright.”

The flag, just a piece of cloth, maybe a big piece of broadcloth, a strong, sturdy fabric, but it wasn’t the cloth—it was what it stood for.

“It is the flag just as much of the man who was naturalized yesterday as of the
men whose people have been here many generations.”
~Henry Cabot Lodge

But America isn’t what it used to be.

More than two decades later, that same boy, John Delizza, who had come to this country and was now a US citizen, had to watch in horror as a native-born American burned the American flag, in the middle of Dupont Circle, Washington, DC, and waved the Communist flag, the hammer and sickle. His heart cried out, “Go to China, to Russia, whatever you think that you want to be. I will pay your one-way ticket.” To Delizza, burning the American flag was treason.

Not to the imperfect, not-so-bright US Supreme Court. In Street v New York (1969) and Texas v Johnson (1989) they held it was freedom of speech.

I remember the Korean Conflict. Autumn 1952 my dad was called on to preach the military funeral of a fallen soldier. It was a solemn and formal occasion with a 21-gun salute. I remember the stillness, the quiet, the rain, the mourning, the haunting words of “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior” …

Pass me not, O gentle Savior,
Hear my humble cry;
While on others Thou art calling,
Do not pass me by.

Savior, Savior,
Hear my humble cry;
While on others Thou art calling,
Do not pass me by. ~Fanny Crosby

… an American flag being folded and handed to the mother. Small compensation for her loss. That image is forever etched in my mind.

But America isn’t what it used to be.

More recently when I heard that some thoughtless (worse, cruel) persons were picketing military funerals, and no one was doing anything about it, I was mortified. How hardhearted could those people be! They called themselves Christian, but there was nothing Christian about what they were doing. Were they just trying to give Christians a bad name? Had they been hired by someone else to inspire a lawsuit? I thought the police should do something to remove the picketers bodily from the premises, if they had to get them for disturbing the peace or being a public nuisance, or if they had to go hunting in their code book for something else to throw at them.

That the imperfect, not-so-bright US Supreme Court, in Snyder v Phelps (2011), decided in favor of the picketers did not help any. I too believe in free speech, but there is a time and place for all things.

No man is an island entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee. ~John Donne (1624)

A funeral is serious—any funeral. But blood shed defending the USA and the Red, White, and Blue deserves special honor.

“The American flag is an enduring symbol of liberty, democracy, and justice. It is fitting that the House act to protect it … as our men and women in uniform rally behind it.” ~Joe Barton

No, America isn’t what it used to be.

Copyright © 2011 Alexandra Lee

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About Christseekerk

Minister, Editor, Writer, Senior Citizen, Grown Children, Grandchildren. Interests travel, writing, reading, walking, golf.
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