I’ve spent the last quarter century living in college towns, both in the US and overseas. One of the features of those burgs in America in the autumn is the homecoming parade.
If you’re American you know what that is. If you’re not, then it might require some explanation.
Homecoming is a college celebration focusing on the return of alumni to that school. Held on Fall weekends, the centerpiece is an American football game against a (usually) weaker opponent. (After all, losing would spoil the fun.)
There are other events surrounding homecoming as well. This morning my town had a run/walk happening which I wondered into on the way to getting coffee. My route to the shop was on the same road as this little fun run and the parade. In fact, I had forgotten all about Homecoming and was mainly interested in getting a cup of Java.
The coffee shop and the sidewalk in front of it were packed with customers awaiting the parade. I waited until the tidal wave of people dissipated and then went to get my caffeine fix. When I got to the cashier, she and another barista smiled at me and said, “Nice to see a familiar face.”
I returned to my table and caught the show. I was struck by how patriotic the parade was. American flags were everywhere. The first thought in my head was, “Nobody’s kneeling.”
Like many Americans, I have been inundated by young folks kneeling when the national anthem is played and the flag displayed. The scenes are so ubiquitous in the media that the impression is imprinted on my mind.
What I saw at homecoming conflicted with all the reports we have all viewed of late. I began to have some cognitive dissonance. I also regained some pride in my country.
I must add a caveat. I live in a distinctly red state. Furthermore, although the local university is fairly sizable, the town only has about 60,000 inhabitants and is situated in the middle of farmland. This kind of community tends to be more traditional then the bigger metropolises.
That the nation is so consumed with “kneelers”, historically confined to worship services, is a huge change in my lifetime. There was a period when youth burned the flag. It was common during Vietnam.
However, things settled down after that war ended and Ronald Reagan became president. We all were all back to trying to make a buck.
The era was typified by young Republican Alex P. Keaton of the fictional sitcom “Family Ties”. Saddled with left wing parents, Alex went after filthy lucre. much to the dismay of his father and mother.
Now we’re back to dissing the flag. The Swarthmore University Indigenous Students Association even resurrected the bygone method of torching our the Stars and Stripes on Columbus Day. But the go-to method now is to kneel when the flag is honored, and the technique is expanding. This week a young lady tasked with singing the national anthem at an NBA game knelt as she performed.
There’s a large disagreement among the populace as to the appropriateness of such demonstrations. One side thinks kneeling or tarnishing the flag is disrespectful and unpatriotic while the other believes our freedoms represented in that banner provide the right to manifest unhappiness with injustices in our land of liberty.
A vexillologist will tell you that a national flag is meant to inspire. When certain elements of our people protest while it is honored is indicative of how disgruntled these folks really are.
This discontent makes EVERYONE unhappy. It’s not nice, and if there is any value that dominates American society, it is the expectation that we all be “nice” to one another.
Part of the problem with the airing of gripes during a flag ceremony is that this kind of grousing is thought to be an extreme form of dissent in most countries. My take is that not all Americans grasp this way of thinking. After all, it’s just a piece of fabric. NOT!
The New Zealand Flag Institute notes the importance of national flags to most people. It states:
A flag represents an idea, or an ideal. It is neither a mere piece of decoration, nor an object to be honored for itself. It is honored for what it represents. Many flags are held in high esteem for their history; for the sacrifices made by the people; for the qualities for which the country and people stand.
Such respect does not depend on the aesthetic appeal of the design, or on it attempting to represent visually the people or politics of a country. If it represent anything tangible, a national flags generally symbolizes the unchanging characteristics of a nation… In democracies they do not generally represent political affiliations.
Like everything else in American life, the honoring of the Stars and Stripes has been politicized. As a result, the ceremony appears to have taken on a different meaning for some.
What is disconcerting is that there may be something more spurious at work. Those remonstrating during a time when they should be honoring the flag might have deeper issues.
“To fly the national flag is a sign of pride and patriotism,” says the National Flag Institute. “It a positive affirmation of loyalty and commitment.”
It marks out a country that has confidence in itself, and is comfortable with its place in the world, its history and its future.”
What is worrisome is that the tidal wave of howling at the flag as a dog does at the moon could denote a nation where a significant amount of the citizens don’t care for its history, present or future. Yet, there are folks like who I saw today who seem to be just fine with the America we have.
The celebration included whites, African Americans, those of Spanish descent and even internationals. This local march gave me the impression we are still one nation indivisible.
I hope this weekend’s homecoming parade bore the earmarks of the true America, no the one I see in the media every day. If it did, the country is in good shape. If not, we might be coming apart at the seams.