From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Flying the Flag

Another Trip Down Memory Lane... Life in Christian County, Kentucky... Life in the Nebraska Sandhills... History and Old Stuff... And What I Think About It...



U.S. flag

This morning, I read an Agence France-Presse (AFP) article titled, "US 'flag epidemic' reaches peak on Fourth of July" (the French think Americans are weird). Then I read an article in the Santa Cruz (CA) Sentinel titled, "Flags burn in celebration" (some Americans are weird.)

Flag-flying is not a new point-to-ponder with me. I've been thinking about it since last summer when my brother visited. He commented that he saw a lot more U.S. flags flying in Kentucky than in Kansas where he lives. Well, there are a lot more houses and people in Kentucky than Kansas, so it's hard to compare the two.

Various motivations seem to underlie the display of the flag. I have noticed locally that when people remodel their house, re-do their landscaping, and get the whole place looking good, they like to get a flagpole with a spotlight and display the U.S. flag. It's the finishing touch, like the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae.

Many of Hopkinsville's stores have patriotic displays of the flag to build goodwill with shoppers from Fort Campbell, one of America's largest Army posts just a dozen miles south of town. It's no coincidence that the largest flag in town, a flag approximately the size of a tennis court (pictured above), is flown at the Sisk Auto Mall alongside the highway to Hopkinsville from Fort Campbell.

But let's put cynicism aside. Many flags around Hopkinsville fly to show support for the troops of Fort Campbell as well as love of country. Many people in this area are former service members who stayed here after being stationed at Fort Campbell. Many people here have a family member in uniform. Nearly everyone here knows someone who has a loved one in the service. They work with an Army wife or their children have friends whose dad or mom is a soldier.

A few months ago, I read the blog of an American living in Austria. He wrote that when he visited his mother in Hopkinsville, KY, he saw U.S. flags flying everywhere. He noted that the Austrian flag is rarely seen except on government buildings. Austrians, he commented, pour their patriotism into football (soccer). I commented on his blog that Austrians and Germans -- indeed all European countries-- probably fear overt patriotism as a result of the Hitler years.

We have a small flag at the front entrance to our house. My husband thinks of the four years he spent in the U.S. Navy when he looks at it. To me, it's a symbol of my love of America and also a fond remembrance of the respect for the flag I learned as a child.

When I was in grade school, some of our teachers had flag raising and lowering ceremonies everyday (in good weather) at the flagpole outside our little country schoolhouse. Flag duties were assigned to two people each week, and I felt honored when it was my turn.

It was a good practical lesson in citizenship. We learned to handle the flag properly, to never let it touch the ground, and to fold it neatly into the shape of the triangular "cocked hat" of George Washington. We said the Pledge of Allegiance so reverently that I felt like saying "Amen" at the end of it.

The flag changed a little when I was in third grade. The 49th star was added for Alaska (January, 1959) and the 50th star was added for Hawaii (August, 1959). A few years later, I remember that we raised the flag, then lowered it to half-mast for many days following the assassination of President Kennedy.

I learned (and intuited) that the flag was America's symbol of freedom, heritage and great heroism. The Stars and Stripes represented everything that the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, the Emancipation Proclamation and Lincoln's Gettysburg Address said. It stood for George Washington crossing the Delaware, the Spirit of '76 and the Marines at Iwo Jima.

Moving forward in time several decades, I remember the day after the September 11, 2001, bombings of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Many people around here had flags displayed in their yards, but I especially remember a young black man who was driving a battered pickup truck in Hopkinsville. He had a flag on each side of the cab. It was heartwarming to see him drive down the street with both flags streaming gloriously in the wind.

O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

That young man's answer was emphatically, "YES!"

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Related:

Charles Wysocki (1928-2002) was a 20th century artist whose paintings of Americana often included the American flag. His work has been popularized through the many jigsaw puzzles that have been made from his paintings.

From a brief obituary that appeared in the October, 2002, edition of Art Business News:

A first generation American of Polish heritage, Wysocki was born in Detroit in 1928. The community he grew up in consisted mostly of immigrants who took great pride and pleasure in celebrating the traditions of their new homeland. These opportunities and celebrations offered by American freedom became the theme of what Wysocki would remember and portray in his artwork.


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2 comments:

Sarabeth said...

On the 4th I was at a friend's house who had just become an American citizen. He's from England. His brother commented to me about all the flags flying.

My response was that since he was here on and around Independence Day he would see lots of flags at people's houses.

He then asked if I had seen more flags flying since 9/11. I told him yes, there were more flags flying after 9/11 and that have stayed flying since then.

Even the very proud British don't display their flag like we Americans do.

Genevieve said...

I love to see the flag flying -- but you probably guessed that.

I can get teary-eyed over the Stars and Stripes. A 4th of July flag ceremony I attended in West Berlin in the early 90's comes to mind. Something about seeing our beautiful flag raised high with all the military pomp that could be mustered, far from home as we all were, made me cry like a baby.

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