The Emblem of the Land We Love: Some Thoughts for Flag Day

Put out a flag on June 14, even if it’s just a small one in a potting vase. It’s the perfect time to recollect who we are.
The Emblem of the Land We Love: Some Thoughts for Flag Day
A house displaying an American flag in Seal Beach, Calif., on Sept. 9, 2023. (Sophie Li/The Epoch Times)
Jeff Minick
In 1974, Johnny Cash wrote and released “Ragged Old Flag.” In that hit song, a first-time visitor to a small town meets an old man sitting by the courthouse and comments on the tattered flag hanging from a tilted pole on the lawn. The old man invites the stranger to sit down and then tells of the battles and wars over which that flag has flown, from American independence to the Alamo, from Chancellorsville and Shiloh to Korea and Vietnam. Near the end of the song, the old man says:

“She waved from our ships upon the briny foam, And now they’ve about quit waving her back here at home. In her own good land she’s been abused— She’s been burned, dishonored, denied, and refused.

“And the government for which she stands Is scandalized throughout the land.”

Cash wrote that song 50 years ago, but he might just as well be singing to us today. In the past four years alone, protesters ranging from Antifa and Black Lives Matter to today’s “River to the Sea” Palestinian supporters have abused the Stars and Stripes. And as Cash aptly put it, right now “the government for which she stands is scandalized throughout the land.” Indeed, throughout the world is the more accurate description.

Maybe it’s time to remember just what that flag means.

On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress passed a resolution that the flag of the United States be 13 alternating red and white stripes and that 13 white stars on a field of blue would represent “a new constellation.” In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson officially established June 14 as Flag Day.
Like the old man in Cash’s song, countless numbers of people have taken hope and inspiration from the American flag. Francis Scott Key, for instance, wrote what became our national anthem after catching sight of “those broad stripes and bright stars” flying above Fort McHenry. In a July 1863 assault on South Carolina’s Fort Wagner, African American and ex-slave William Carney caught the flag when the color-bearer of his regiment was shot, and despite several wounds, crawled to the walls of the fort and drove the flagpole into the sand, keeping it upright until rescued by his fellow soldiers. When, after vicious fighting, Marines raised the flag on Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi, scores of U.S. Navy ships blew horns and whistles while Americans on the island cheered at the sight of Old Glory against the Pacific sky.
Watch this video—the crying is coming from inside the aircraft, not the tarmac—and we remember the price of that flag on the coffin. Take a look at Sabaheta Sinanovic as she waves a small American flag after taking her oath of citizenship, and we get a picture of what America means to those who have hoped and prayed to enter this country.
This spring, members of the Phi Kappa Phi fraternity at UNC-Chapel made the news defending the American flag from pro-Palestinian protesters. Meanwhile, a female student nearby held up her American flag to keep the flag flying. Despite the objects thrown at her and at the fraternity members by the hostile crowd, Hailey—her last name was withheld for reasons of security—refused to yield before the mob. “I would give up my life to protect that flag,” she said later. “I would give my life to protect America in a heartbeat. This was about the honor of America.”

“Ragged Old Flag” ends with these words:

“And she’s getting threadbare and wearing thin, But she’s in good shape for the shape she’s in. ‘Cause she’s been through the fire before, And I believe she can take a whole lot more.

“So we raise her up every morning, Take her down every night. We don’t let her touch the ground And we fold her up right. On second thought, I do like to brag, ‘Cause I’m mighty proud of that Ragged Old Flag.”

Much earlier in the 20th century, songwriter and performer George M. Cohan also wrote a love song to the flag and America. Three lines in “You’re a Grand Old Flag” go this way: “You’re the emblem of/ the land I love/The home of the free and the brave.”

This Flag Day, which falls on a Friday, let’s make a place in our lives for that emblem, that ragged old flag. Let’s remember that “she’s been through the fire before,” that we are “the home of the free and the brave,” and that securing our liberties demands exercising our courage.

Put out a flag on June 14, even if it’s just a small one in a potting vase. It’s the perfect time to recollect who we are.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Jeff Minick has four children and a growing platoon of grandchildren. For 20 years, he taught history, literature, and Latin to seminars of homeschooling students in Asheville, N.C. He is the author of two novels, “Amanda Bell” and “Dust On Their Wings,” and two works of nonfiction, “Learning As I Go” and “Movies Make The Man.” Today, he lives and writes in Front Royal, Va.
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