The 1797 nursery rhyme “Humpty Dumpty” tells children the tale about an egg sitting on a wall that suddenly took a great fall. Sadly, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men failed to put him back together again. Would we ever have heard of Humpty Dumpty had Gorilla Glue existed?!
Obviously, when something of value breaks, we turn to glue as a quick fix. At a time when America is broken, we are in need of the glue that has historically provided us with a rallying point. Yet some are committed to denying it to us.
We are a country that has lost the essence of what once made America a guiding light for others. Foreigners were drawn to that with which we have been blessed – a land of opportunity where quality of life can be improved through one’s willingness to work hard to achieve it. What fed this possibility was the sense of freedom to do so – to an extent unprovided anywhere else in the world.
Granted, it was opportunity with challenges. No one group of immigrants, whether their status was achieved involuntarily as victims of the slave trade or voluntarily, such as Chinese laborers, the Irish, the Italians, etc., obtained tolerance quickly. It took time–centuries for some; decades for others. But, eventually, America became a melting pot of diversity. Such diversity made one destination a common reality.
For over two centuries, Americans have been on a journey to build a road to a utopian society recognizing true equality for all. The journey has suffered occasional detours, requiring time be taken to erect bridges crossing over racial divides. Once the bridges were built, we made the necessary course adjustments to continue forward. But the progress made always turned upon a unified effort by Americans to reach the final destination.
Twenty-one years into the 21st century, the America of the earlier half is not the America of the latter half. A disturbing transition has occurred in the relative blink of an eye, and, most disturbingly, it is the glue applied in the past that is being denied us today.
Other than our own Civil War, the glue that has always held us together as a people has been our flag – later honored by the playing of our national anthem. Regardless of the turmoil and social chaos of the time, the Stars and Stripes have long held us together. Why? Because, regardless of ideological differences, we all took great pride in what it symbolizes. We always accepted the fact it represented a country on that journey to creating a more perfect union.
The waving of the flag in the breeze along with playing our national anthem sends chills down our collective spine. But those today choosing to disrespect it deny us the glue needed to rally as a unified people. They remove a symbol around which most Americans, unable to agree with each other ideologically, at least found common ground upon which to work together. Remove the flag and we become a boiling pot of diverse interests, competing against each other without regard for common cause.
We are seeing malcontents, who choose to indict the whole of America rather than focus on improving the sum of its parts, engaging in actions that divide rather than unify America by undermining her flag.
Such actions include refusal by Dallas Mavericks team owner Mark Cuban to play the national anthem at home basketball games. Despite its being a tradition in all sports, Cuban decided his team will no longer continue it. The action was outrageous, coming in the state where 185 years earlier, to win their independence, courageous Texans fought to the last man at the Alamo. In response to Cuban, conservatives in the Texas Senate introduced the “Star Spangled Banner Protection Act” – joined by 10 of 13 Democrats – mandating that any professional sports team with state government contracts would play the anthem at the start of a game.
Also seeking to deny us the glue is the mayor of Silverton, Colorado, who unilaterally decided to suspend reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at city meetings. He claimed this was due to “direct and indirect threats” in the form of inappropriate comments “in and out of public meetings and general divisiveness and issues created in our community.” Despite threatening them with removal, attendees decided to recite the pledge anyway.
Not wishing to miss the flag-criticism bandwagon, singer Macy Gray argued in an op-ed celebrating the creation of Juneteenth as a federal holiday that the American flag is “tattered, dated, divisive, and incorrect,” in need of change. Ironically, it was under that same flag – with fewer stars – that Juneteeth ended slavery.
Meanwhile, a BLM Utah chapter had the gall to post the following on July 4th: “When we Black Americans see this flag, we know the person flying it is not safe to be around.” It ridiculously called the flag a “symbol of hate.”
Dishonoring our flag is a travesty, especially when one reflects upon what it meant to a group of courageous men many years ago. They were our Vietnam War POWs – men like John McCain, Everett Alvarez and Orson Swindle – whose survival depended upon clinging to American values represented by it.
Swindle, who spent six years and four months in captivity, wrote in a personal letter what he felt on March 4,1973, as he and his fellow POWs watched a U.S. transport plane land in Hanoi to pick them up. As the aircraft slowly taxied towards them, he said, “there before our squinting eyes, was a big, red white and blue American Flag emblazoned on the tail of the aircraft moving closer and closer. … I am pretty sure there was not a dry eye among us.”
He explained the POWs’ emotions upon seeing the flag:
“You see, the Flag is more than a piece of cloth or an ornament to be disrespected. It represented the glue that held us together for all those years of abuse, torture, deprivation, uncertainty, fear and pain. We all knew it represented us, our indomitable spirit, our courage, our hopes, our dreams, our faith and our love for our Country. …
“We had lived in fear of dishonoring that Flag in any way. We were inspired by it and even made little flags from cloth we stole in prison. We were beaten for possessing those little scrap cloth flags. And, every night in our cells, we looked toward home year after year, and we said the Pledge of Allegiance together, although we were often detained in solitary confinement in solid-walled cells, apart from our fellow Prisoners of War.
“The Flag, the Pledge, our Country and each other, meant a lot to us – and, they still do.”
Our flag provided the glue to unify these POWs, holding them together during a time of great challenge. At a time America is broken, we ignore their message at our peril.
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