American Hollow-Day

Last Friday was a hugely important day in America! It was so hugely important I couldn’t sleep the night before! I got up twice hoping it was already morning. I stared at the numbers on the bedside clock, willing them to go faster. Finally, when dawn’s early light beckoned, I leaped out of bed like a child on Christmas, dashed down the hall, and stepped into the laundry room. I was brimming with anticipation!  And there, standing patiently in the corner, tightly furled since last Independence Day: our American flag.  Quick as a mouse, I ran her out to the front deck and hoisted her in the most prominent place I could find. Then I took a few steps back and placed my hand over my heart.  To no one in particular I exclaimed, “Happy Flag Day!”

Poor Flag Day – she’s an underappreciated holiday.  She comes and goes with no more fanfare than pre-printed words on the June 14 square of a wall calendar.  She doesn’t even rate a Hallmark card.  She yearns to be a real holiday like those ten federal ones.   She wants to believe the events of my first paragraph actually happened.  But let’s get real.  In our house, the only excitement last Friday was knowing the weekend was at hand.  I slept without interruption the night before.  I didn’t get up at dawn.  And our flag remained furled in the corner of the laundry room, knowing its only chance to see the light of day would be July 4th.

Which is all to say, I’m missing the point of Flag Day, at least in this country.  Wikipedia devotes two tiny paragraphs to its Flag Day article, beginning with the words, “A flag day is a flag-related holiday…” (promising start, no?)  But at least they go on to say, “…a day designated for flying a certain flag…”, and, “…a day set aside to celebrate a nation’s adoption of its flag.”  Here in America, we do neither on June 14th.

Apologies to Troy, NY (whose Flag Day parades draws 50,000+ spectators) and Waubeka, WI (which claims to be the founding city of Flag Day and also has a parade).  The residents of those towns surely had a “banner celebration” last Friday.  The employees of the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia probably took the day off as well.  But for the rest of us, it was just another June 14th, conspicuously calendared halfway between big-boy holidays “Memorial” and “Independence”.

Don’t get me wrong – I think America’s flag is supremely appreciated.  She flies above any government facility, sports stadium, or other big-time gathering in our country, and she always gets the highest position on the pole (except you, Texas).  She shows up on a billion first-class postage stamps.  She’s decorates the top of Mt. Everest and the moon.  And on Independence Day, she’ll be raised more times than any other day.  Which makes Flag Day seem, well, redundant, doesn’t it?

         

If we’re to truly embrace this overlooked holiday in America, I suggest the following from now on: 1) Your June 14th breakfast must contain some combination of red, white, and blue foods (i.e. cherries, blueberries, Pop-Tarts in a pinch).  2) Your June 14th outfit must contain the colors of the American flag (or at least one of those classy little lapel pins).  3) Unfurl and raise the flag at your house or place of business – and won’t it be cool to add “unfurl” to your vocabulary for a day?  4) Hail a cab or a friend, so you can say you “flagged them down”.  Actually, disregard that last one.

I’ll grant one exception to my efforts to boost the significance of Flag Day.  If you happen to live on a flag lot, you don’t have to do anything at all.  You’re celebrating by default!  But you might consider coloring your property appropriately.  Wouldn’t that cause a stir in the plane flying overhead?

Look forward, not back.  Independence Day is only two weeks from today.  Dust off your flag after all.

Banner Birthday

I unfurled my American flag off the back deck of our house yesterday. It’s a prominent location for the Stars & Stripes, where people passing by on the adjacent street can’t miss it. Then again, we live in a quiet neighborhood so I’d be surprised if many took notice. I’d be even more surprised if they knew why I was flying the flag.  Perhaps you missed it too.  Yesterday was Flag Day.

To be brutally honest, I’m not sure why America has a Flag Day.  Oh sure, the history books tell us Flag Day commemorates the adoption of the U.S. flag, way back on June 14, 1777.  One could argue there’s no amount of honor and celebration large enough for our country’s heritage and freedom.  But Independence Day gets a whole lot more attention than Flag Day.  Ditto Memorial Day and Veterans Day.  At least those days are true “holidays” in the United States.

Flag Day was established in 1916, so what-do-ya-know that makes this year’s celebration the 100th anniversary.  I didn’t see any parades or fireworks to commemorate the centennial, did you?  Then again, I don’t think America fully embraces Flag Day.  If we adopted our flag in 1777, why did we need another 140 years to give it a “day”?  Flag Day isn’t even an official holiday in this country.  The President has the discretion to decide if it should be celebrated in a given year.  On that note, I don’t recall a proclamation from President Trump so maybe I should’ve kept my flag in the closet.

There’s further confusion about Flag Day.  Congress didn’t put the commemoration into “law” until 1949, thirty-three years after Woodrow Wilson established the day.  No states acknowledged Flag Day before 1937, when Pennsylvania became the first.  Other states – notably New York – decided it made better sense to put Flag Day on a weekend, as in the second weekend in June.  We can’t even agree on the date.

There’s history about Flag Day that precedes President Wilson, but it’s spotty.  The earliest reference is 1861, when a citizen of Hartford, CT suggested the idea and the city put together a celebration.  That didn’t take.  I885, Bernard Cigrand of Waubeka, WI began a prolonged push for a U.S. Flag Day.  After one local observance, he traveled around the country “promoting patriotism, respect for the flag, and the need for the annual observance”.  Thanks to Cigrand, Wilson established Flag Day thirty years later.  Cigrand is thus earned the title, “Father of Flag Day”.

Despite the facts, Flag Day still has me scratching my head.  The “National Flag Day Foundation” celebrates – like New York – on the second Sunday in June, yet the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House in Baltimore and the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia prefer June 14th (lending credence to “National Flag Week”).  Parades and festivities take place around the country, but the discretion seems to be with the states as much as the President.  Here in Colorado Springs, home of the Air Force Academy and several other military bases, Flag Day came and went without so much as a whisper.

Fifty other countries have a Flag Day so there is some legitimacy to the concept.  But in many cases, those countries celebrate their independence as well.  That makes a lot more sense to me.  The flag is a connotation for liberty, so why not go with one holiday instead of two?

I admire the homes with the permanent flagpoles in the front yard, their owners pridefully raising the Stars & Stripes day in and day out.  But Flag Day must be “just another day” to these people.  Fittingly, americanflags.com describes Flag Day as “consistently overlooked yet universally beloved”.  I’d agree with the first part of that statement.

With all due respect, I’ll continue to unfurl the Stars & Stripes on Flag Day, no matter how many people notice.  If for no other reason, to echo the words of one of our most revered presidents:

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.