Our town has a parade every Memorial, like many others across the country. The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post organizes ours, and the American Legion Post members carry a large American flag just behind the honor guard. The parade route leads to the town’s military cemetery, in spite of the fact that most residents don’t realize that’s what it really is. It’s long since been used for more than just members of the military, but it kept its original name – Union Cemetery – and still has a grave for the Unknown Soldier. That is where the veterans and community leaders have a Memorial Day ceremony each year, but very few people stay around to hear the speeches.
The holiday that was meant to memorialize fallen soldiers has turned into a party to celebrate the unofficial start of summer. While I’m a fan of capitalism, I’m not a fan of commercializing what should be solemn days. However, what is worse than turning a day to remember our military into an excuse to have a sale on summer clothing and housewares is suggesting that our flag be used by party hostesses as an interesting table decoration on the Fourth of July.
Todd Starnes pointed out on Town Hall that HGTV was making the ludicrous suggestion that a U.S. Flag be used as a tablecloth as an “unconventional table” linen. The column went on to explain that there was a great deal negative feedback from viewers about this, and the flag etiquette that suggests why this should never be done was explained by a representative from the American Legion. Personally, I was slightly heartened by the fact that there were complaints, but that doesn’t do much to ease the fact that this really is just another sign that our society is being dragged down by a liberal secular philosophy that is akin to the tradition and history free existence illustrated by Aldous Huxley in Brave New World.
That same philosophy is behind statements that suggest that another American tradition is irrelevant today – comments declaring “The Star Spangled Banner” is outdated, terrible, or any of the other derogatory terms used to describe it today. As a woman that was raised to respect the flag, veterans, and to be proudly patriotic, these attitudes have a deeper meaning for me. I draw the lines between this disrespect, and the apathy over situations like the September 11 attack in Benghazi. It is easy for me to see that this anti-patriotic feeling is translating into a lack of respect for people in this country in general. And it is at the root of the myriad of issues that are being used to divide us as a nation.
And the irony is that even when people respectfully attempt to bring our traditions to a younger audience, there are complaints. Some people consider what the band Madison Rising did to “The Star Spangled Banner” is disrespectful. Of course, Starnes attempted to get HGTV to explain themselves – to no avail – when they suggested using the U.S. Flag as a tablecloth. To be fair, I figured it might be a good idea to ask the lead singer of Madison Rising, Dave Bray, what motivated their interpretation of our National Anthem. Contrary to what some people might think, there was a great deal of respect involved. “In the end, I knew that it still had to be reverent and loyal to the meaning… to the emotion… to the victory of the battle… to the pride of the nation and most of all to our flag and to that for which it stands,” Bray stated. “Personally, for me.. It is an extremely emotional song…it’s about what shapes us as a people of this nation, our flag and what it has taken to hold on to this ‘land of the free’. It’s about what many God-fearing men have lost their lives for and it’s not for the weak of heart.”
Context matters, and obviously in this case, it is important to understand the motivations of an artist. While some people may not like the idea of taking any artistic liberties with our National Anthem, that doesn’t mean that anyone that actually does it can only have the intention of disrespecting it. On the contrary, it could very well be exactly as Bray explained – an attempt to bring that sense of pride to the next generation. And that is something that is obviously needed today, if anyone in our society thinks it’s a good idea to use the U.S. Flag as a tablecloth. While HGTV didn’t have anything to say about that idea, Bray certainly did.
“Wow look just how far away from reality, ‘reality television’ has gone,” Dave says. “Everything is just so cute, well edited, montaged, over dubbed, sped up, high def’d, slowed down, and perfectly catered to seem so personal….so why not!!…. ‘Grandpa’ s old flag just sitting around collecting dust??? Well just throw it on the table and bust out the macaroni salad and taco dip for your ‘summer outdoor holiday celebration’. Can’t call it the 4th of July or Independence Day any more because someone might get offended.”
So what is the take-away message here? We need to hold fast to what traditions and loyalties we hold dear, regardless of what anyone else says. There is no shame in being patriotic, and we need to rise above the fray on this, by setting the example of being respectful. Finally, we need to welcome opportunities to encourage the next generation to share in our sense of national pride. Bray said it much better than I can, “Are we still a brave nation? YES we are! We are still a country at war and we will still fight for the future of our children! There is still a republic to hold on to and a flag worth fighting for!”
Madison Rising – The Star Spangled Banner: