The Flag - A Memorial Day Message

On this Memorial Day, the assembly of little flags in the photo below reminds me of fallen American men and women who have given their life in the name of our country. Each flag could be a person, limp and alone; and yet, the stars and stripes remain strong and bold, reminding us of an enduring journey. RWB08 photo by Ernest Morin (click on the photo for additional photos)

On this Memorial Day, what comes to your mind when you see our flag, the American flag? During this extended weekend, each of us will encounter the Red, White & Blue. When we see it, what will we make of it?

Remember the old game some of us once played as kids, “Capture the flag”? Since September 11, it can seem that the flag has been captured by those who believe they hold the truth about patriotism; many may even believe they have received Devine inspiration about this truth.

But look up patriotism in the dictionary and you will find that it often means, simply, a love of country, a devotion to country.

So, I invite you to click on the image above and look at the attached photos which were taken by Ernest Morin, an old college buddy of mine. For me, Ernie’s photos give rise to an assortment of emotions. Some make me feel sad; others upbeat; almost all of them make me feel proud. Through a snapshot in time they help us to see people’s deep sense of attachment to the flag – they want to show it, wear it, wave it… they want to be a part of it.

On this Memorial Day, my sense is that much of the nation looks at the flag and wonders what our next steps should be here at home and around the globe. How do we protect ourselves from terrorists and yet engender peace in the world? How can we build a good and just society right here?

My questions may seem to border on being platitudes. But I don’t think so. The most difficult issues are often those that deal with fundamental choices about our values, our sense of purpose, and our willingness to pay attention and engage.

On this Memorial Day, the sight of the flag in these photos makes me want to express my patriotism – my sense of love and devotion – which ought never to be confused with either blanket approval or a blank check for misguided missions and disregard for those less fortunate.

Instead, these simple and elegant photos remind us of the call of the flag. It is a call for us to find better ways to express our ideals. It is to join together to make a more perfect union. This is the task I wish to accept; this is the message I take from our flag.