The Meaning of a Piece of Cloth

16 Apr

One of my various jobs in Travel and Tourism was as an Adventure Tour Guide. I used to drive foreigners across the U.S. and Canada in a minivan finding various adventures along the way.

One of the best parts of the job was meeting Japanese, Singaporean, British, Australian, German, Dutch, Korean, South African and Israeli young people. Another favorite part of the job was showing them my beautiful country. When you drive from New York to Los Angeles through the south, you are struck by the diversity of scenery and people. There are however, a few things that remain constant. One of the most noticeable to my tour groups was the American flag.

The song America the Beautiful talks about amber waves of grain and purple mountains’ majesty. What it doesn’t talk about are the flags. The enormous flags that blow in the winds high above our cities, from government buildings to car dealerships. The not so enormous flags that dot residential streets in small towns across America. The tiny flags waved by young children during 4th of July celebrations throughout America.

My passengers’ constant comment about these, “you Americans, you love your flag.” But do we? This piece of nylon cloth which carries the same colors as countless flags throughout the world. Yes, the flag represents some facts about America. The thirteen stripes standing for the thirteen original colonies which began the formation of this powerful country. Of course, the stars. One for each state in this glorious union. There are approved ways to dispose of an old flag. There are approved ways to fly one (Be sure not to let it touch the ground. No other flag must fly above it). There are ceremonies to raise it and ceremonies to lower it. It drapes coffins of war heroes. It is lowered to half-staff when the country mourns. Yet, in the end, it is still a piece of material.

Yesterday in Boston something terrible happened. Due to the prevalence of camera phones and the joyous event taking place, there are a plethora of videos and pictures to document the scene. If you look past the carnage, chaos and human suffering, you will notice something else. Flags.

Mixed in with the red of the blood spread throughout the streets was the red, white and blue of the American flag. But why were the flags there in the first place? Some, undoubtedly because, well, that’s just where they are. Those are the flags that watch over those streets on a daily basis. They hang in the cold and are witness to the hustle and bustle of daily life on streets below. Others were there because yesterday, in Boston, was Patriots day. A day to celebrate the actions that led to the formation of this country. It was a day to honor the strength of those who helped form this great nation as well as those who fight to keep it great. These fights take place on battlefields, in Congress, and in voting booths. They also happen when little guys stand up for what they believe to be right. When firefighters run into burning buildings to save old ladies and when small children donate their birthday money to help starving children in some far off land. They take place when everyday people decide they can make a difference simply by donating blood.

It’s not that we Americans love our flag. We love what our flag represents. It represents the good in this country. The knowledge that there is more good than bad. More right than wrong. The hope that good will always triumph over evil in the end.

“Oh say does that star-spangled banner yet wave. O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.” Yes, we Americans like displaying our flag, but we love what it represents even more.

photo credit, David L. Ryan, Getty Images

photo credit, David L. Ryan, Getty Images


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: