Huzzah for the stars and stripes | VailDaily.com
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Huzzah for the stars and stripes

Alex Miller

The stripes represent where we started; the stars where we are today. In a world full of countries and flags represent them, I’ve always believed the American flag is the best-looking one of them all.I like it so much so that I fly it outside our home on national holidays like the Fourth of July and Memorial Day. Something about my flagpole isn’t quite right, and the flag is always getting wrapped up in it, requiring regular untwistings. Whenever I’m out there fixing it, I think about getting a new, better flag pole, but the poignant metaphor of correcting the flag is so delicious, I put up with it year after year.I truly love the American flag for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that, since I was a kid, I’ve always felt warmed by the bright colors and arrangement of stars and stripes. The 13 stripes and 50 stars are such a simple statement, but they say so much about our country beyond just the numerical. Rendered in red and white, the stripes make me think of the southern states haggling with the northern over how to address the issue of slavery. The solution, imperfect as it was, stands as a strong reminder of how we’ve always come together as a country regardless of our differences.Given the many schisms dividing our country these days, it seems more important than ever to fly the flag. Could what it stands for – open to individual interpretation, of course – be the only thing we all agree upon?Sometimes, hanging out the flag, I ask myself why I’m doing it. Other than the little cheapie flags people stick in their lawns for the Fourth, not too many of my neighbors fly flags these days. I know I do it in part because my father always did, and still does. The flag I fly was one he left to me when he and my mother moved from Colorado. Many people fly flags with a military thought or two in mind. On Memorial Day, I think about these things as well, but as a journalist, my love for what American stands for has more to do with the rule of the people and a free press in an open society. As the pole is sent home into the holder (which is a little wobbly; I think it needs another screw), I always step back and take a look at it waving there, think a bit about how lucky I am to have been born in the U.S. and make a note to write something soon excoriating the government.Patriotism is a funny thing. It’s been called the last refuge of scoundrels, and there’s plenty of examples of it being used as a political bludgeon and a tool of manipulation these days – as in days past. Like the alcohol many of us will consume this day, patriotism is generally best experienced in moderation. It should be more of a backdrop like that field of blue behind the stars than something trotted out to make a point. Once an argument devolves into assessing the relative patriotism of the opposing sides, reason and logic evaporate, to be replaced by discourse that’s tantamount to schoolyard taunts.Sometimes, I think our flag loses meaning by getting mixed in with all the other logos that fill our lives. The Nike swoosh, Apple’s apple, the Coke script – would it surprise anyone to know that kids growing up conflate the stars and stripes with all that other background noise? I don’t believe our flag is a sacred object to be protected by a new constitutional amendment, but I do believe it’s a special thing with an honored place above all that other crap.So if there’s one good way to express our patriotism this Fourth of July, maybe it’s to take a moment or two and explain to our children what that symbol really means and to ask them to find in their own hearts a way to express what it might mean to them. Then, if you don’t already have one, get yourself a real, full-sized flag and fly it.It may take a little more effort than slapping a “Support the Troops” magnet on the SUV, but you might be surprised at how good it will make you feel once its waving outside your front door.Assistant Managing Editor Alex Miller can be reached 748-2931 or amiller@vaildaily.com. Check out his blog at http://www.vaildaily.com/section/BLOG Vail, Colorado


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