Monday, June 27, 2005

Notes From My Knapsack 7-03-05
Jeff Gill

You will likely fly the flag this weekend, or at least see one going by. Old Glory, the Star Spangled Banner, the Stars and Stripes, the Flag of the United States of America. Whatever name you call it, the banner of the republic evokes strong feelings, especially around the Glorious Fourth.
I had the pleasure and privilege to teach flag folding and (of course) a little history to Cub Scouts at Cub Scout Day Camp a few weeks ago. Ric and Angie Eader put in amazing hours, for no pay, to assemble and run a program that sees almost 300 six through ten year old boys for four days (plus an older Cubs’ overnighter) pass through Camp Falling Rock out past Rocky Fork. Some thirty volunteers staffed stations, and a total th rough the week of 150 and more parents and grandparents as den leaders and walkers covered the truly rugged acres of up and down terrain.
And that doesn’t even count the dozens of "sibling camp" boys and girls who came when their folks were doing den duty.
Anyhow, I had the chance to share with around 500 Licking Countians proper treatment of the national emblem. Not that all of them didn’t know this stuff: they are Scouts, mostly. But they got a chance to practice what many adults never master.
You see, the US flag is folded like no other flag in the world. The final form is a triangle akin to a colonial cocked hat, a tricorn like the Valley Forge Continental Army wore in 1777 just after the thirteen stripe, thirteen star flag was approved by Congress in June of that year.
There are odd stories circulating on the internet about the "true meaning of each fold," which is just a quaint legend created long after we’d been folding the flag that way. But it is absolutely true that our level of flag etiquette and respect is different in this country.
The key is in the words of the Pledge of Allegiance, which is "to the republic, for which it stands." We do not swear an oath to the Crown, or put a Queen on all our coinage like those nice Canadians do, let alone our British cousins. A person does not represent this land, so we don’t enlist by the name of the President or Congress. We don’t swear on the land, to a place like the District of Columbia or by a Fatherland or Motherland. The states have changed in num ber and shape over and over for two centuries and more.
So the Flag of the United States of America is a symbol of freedom and democracy as other places see a monarch or geography as the emblem of their national ideals. The Flag represents the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, our elective officials, our judiciary, and executive officers, our military and astronauts and park rangers.
The Flag is Us.
Which is why we taught kids to fold the flag correctly, raise it smartly in the morning, an d respectfully in the evening, and salute it to hat or heart as appropriate as it passes by.
You’ll be somewhere this Fourth of July weekend and see the flag in a parade. Stand when it approaches, and salute as it goes by, with most hats coming off and mo st of us with a simple hand over the heart.
When you salute the flag, you affirm that "we do not bow the knee before kings and princes" or take "oaths of tyranny" let alone swear by the ground we walk on, all concepts rejected in our nation’s founding. W e salute the flag because we know that a simple piece of cloth made from various strips and symbols of "a new constellation in the heavens" is enough. It is all we need to represent the values of a land where anyone can afford to own a flag of their own a nd fly it off of a porch in the country, no less than the occupant of the White House or a mansion downtown.
We salute simplicity and basic principles, not every policy initiative from the government or each choice made in the expansion of the states to t he Pacific. No gold or jewels, no hero even holding the staff is needed. We just salute the flag, and the democratic republic "for which it stands," and for which we should stand, too.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; if you see the flag respected in a newly meaningful way this weekend, tell him through

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