Franke: ‘Tis the Season of Patriotism — and Liberty

June 7, 2023

by Mark Franke

This is the season of patriotic display on my cul-de-sac. Three important patriotic holidays occur within a six-week period: Memorial Day, Flag Day and Independence Day. I call this the patriotic pause, a pause to reflect.

Several years ago one of the neighbors suggested we put a few small flags along the street to mark the summer holidays. A few soon doubled in number and eventually all neighbors joined in. Memorial Day saw 97 flags across the 15 houses, except for one house that, quite suspiciously, forgot to put them out. That homeowner will undergo the neighborhood version of water-boarding at our next weekly stag confab around a backyard shuffleboard court. It goes without saying that his blatant un-Americanism will be forgiven If he brings the bourbon.

Our flag tradition is just one thing we do to maintain our family-like relationships up and down the street. Ours is a mix of empty-nester retirees and young families with children at home. We attend different churches and some not at all, we don’t all vote the same in November and our hobbies are varied. That “diversity” is irrelevant in our unity of loving our neighbors as ourselves.

This mini season of three holidays reminds us of another unifying attitude; none of us want to live in any other country. That hardly means we are happy with the direction our nation has been taking but it is here in the USA where we enjoy the liberty to attempt peacefully to change that direction.

That is the symbolism of the flag. It is both abstract and concrete, tangible and intangible. It represents the past and future while flying gloriously in the present.

Consider these holidays in turn.

• Memorial Day is the most retrospective of the three. We look back on all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf. Veterans are popular with the citizenry again, thank God. Appreciation of veterans waxes and wanes over time but I sense a genuineness now.

• Flag Day shows us the reason these veterans did what they did. The flag is a very real symbol to them, reminding them during the most dangerous times of why they were there. Flags have always served as rallying symbols on the battlefield, from the medieval need to designate the location of the lord to the regimental flags of the American Civil War, visual symbols that the regiment was still intact. Just read battlefield accounts of how the flag was never allowed to fall so long as one soldier was left alive. Losing the flag was the ultimate failure, an act nearly as egregious as cowardice.

• Independence Day concludes the patriotic pause but it represents our patriotism’s metaphysical birth. The new nation declared its independence in 1776 but that was just talk until the Continental Army backed it up by winning the war. Its symbolism was essential to maintaining morale in that underfed, under-clothed and under-appreciated group of true patriots.

In that respect the Declaration of Independence may have been an intangible gesture but still a critical one to the war’s outcome. Its tangible benefit was anchored in its appeal to our unalienable, God-given rights. Governments may come and go, may be benevolent or malevolent, or structured in multiple ways but they still are transient. Natural rights, rooted in natural law laid down by our Creator God, are universal and eternal.

Declaring our independence from the King and Parliament of Great Britain is now only symbolic in the 21st century. I doubt King Charles represents an existential threat to our nationhood. What remains central to us as Americans are the threefold rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Those rights are the reality of the symbolic flag. We pledge allegiance to those principles, albeit in slightly different language. The Pledge of Allegiance should be more than simple recitation; it should rededicate us and inspire us to act out its ideals.

Can we do that, given the state of our national discourse? Can we live as if America were still “one nation under God”?

It is too easy to blame the politicians in Washington, as repugnant as their words and deeds may be. We did elect them, after all. Thomas Jefferson warned that “the government you elect is the government you deserve.” But then he was not above the down-and-dirty political shenanigans of his day. I have found it is best to treat Jefferson under a “do as I say, not as I do” rubric.

It comes down to us, John and Jane Q. Public. How? Don’t ask me. I’m as discouraged as everyone else. I am equally susceptible to a sense of powerlessness in the voting booth.

Then I look at the 97 flags lining my street and I recall those memorable lines of the Declaration. Liberty is worth fighting for, on the battlefield and in the voting booth.

Mark Franke, M.B.A., an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review and its book reviewer, is formerly an associate vice-chancellor at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.

‘Tis the Season of Patriotism — and Liberty

by Mark Franke

This is the season of patriotic display on my cul-de-sac. Three important patriotic holidays occur within a six-week period: Memorial Day, Flag Day and Independence Day. I call this the patriotic pause, a pause to reflect.

Several years ago one of the neighbors suggested we put a few small flags along the street to mark the summer holidays. A few soon doubled in number and eventually all neighbors joined in. Memorial Day saw 97 flags across the 15 houses, except for one house that, quite suspiciously, forgot to put them out. That homeowner will undergo the neighborhood version of water-boarding at our next weekly stag confab around a backyard shuffleboard court. It goes without saying that his blatant un-Americanism will be forgiven If he brings the bourbon.

Our flag tradition is just one thing we do to maintain our family-like relationships up and down the street. Ours is a mix of empty-nester retirees and young families with children at home. We attend different churches and some not at all, we don’t all vote the same in November and our hobbies are varied. That “diversity” is irrelevant in our unity of loving our neighbors as ourselves.

This mini season of three holidays reminds us of another unifying attitude; none of us want to live in any other country. That hardly means we are happy with the direction our nation has been taking but it is here in the USA where we enjoy the liberty to attempt peacefully to change that direction.

That is the symbolism of the flag. It is both abstract and concrete, tangible and intangible. It represents the past and future while flying gloriously in the present.

Consider these holidays in turn.

• Memorial Day is the most retrospective of the three. We look back on all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf. Veterans are popular with the citizenry again, thank God. Appreciation of veterans waxes and wanes over time but I sense a genuineness now.

• Flag Day shows us the reason these veterans did what they did. The flag is a very real symbol to them, reminding them during the most dangerous times of why they were there. Flags have always served as rallying symbols on the battlefield, from the medieval need to designate the location of the lord to the regimental flags of the American Civil War, visual symbols that the regiment was still intact. Just read battlefield accounts of how the flag was never allowed to fall so long as one soldier was left alive. Losing the flag was the ultimate failure, an act nearly as egregious as cowardice.

• Independence Day concludes the patriotic pause but it represents our patriotism’s metaphysical birth. The new nation declared its independence in 1776 but that was just talk until the Continental Army backed it up by winning the war. Its symbolism was essential to maintaining morale in that underfed, under-clothed and under-appreciated group of true patriots.

In that respect the Declaration of Independence may have been an intangible gesture but still a critical one to the war’s outcome. Its tangible benefit was anchored in its appeal to our unalienable, God-given rights. Governments may come and go, may be benevolent or malevolent, or structured in multiple ways but they still are transient. Natural rights, rooted in natural law laid down by our Creator God, are universal and eternal.

Declaring our independence from the King and Parliament of Great Britain is now only symbolic in the 21st century. I doubt King Charles represents an existential threat to our nationhood. What remains central to us as Americans are the threefold rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Those rights are the reality of the symbolic flag. We pledge allegiance to those principles, albeit in slightly different language. The Pledge of Allegiance should be more than simple recitation; it should rededicate us and inspire us to act out its ideals.

Can we do that, given the state of our national discourse? Can we live as if America were still “one nation under God”?

It is too easy to blame the politicians in Washington, as repugnant as their words and deeds may be. We did elect them, after all. Thomas Jefferson warned that “the government you elect is the government you deserve.” But then he was not above the down-and-dirty political shenanigans of his day. I have found it is best to treat Jefferson under a “do as I say, not as I do” rubric.

It comes down to us, John and Jane Q. Public. How? Don’t ask me. I’m as discouraged as everyone else. I am equally susceptible to a sense of powerlessness in the voting booth.

Then I look at the 97 flags lining my street and I recall those memorable lines of the Declaration. Liberty is worth fighting for, on the battlefield and in the voting booth.

Mark Franke, M.B.A., an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review and its book reviewer, is formerly an associate vice-chancellor at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.



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