Why we fly the American flag

 

Last updated 1/3/2023 at Noon

Katie Yoder many years ago, on Topper at a Morgan horse show. PHOTO PROVIDED

The view from my writing room looks out on Greenridge, Black Butte, Mt. Jefferson, and our American flag on a gray flagpole just above the barn.

I look at the flag often and for many reasons.

It shows which way the wind’s blowing and reminds me of the service my father and husband gave to our country.

I think about my relatives, male and female, who have served more recently, or are still in service to our country.

I am filled with gratitude.

I look at the flag and think of them and the potential our nation has to live up to what the Founding Fathers wrote so long ago.

I see the missteps and injustices too.

I remember, with all our faults and foibles, we are still the best place to live on earth, with the best government to live freely.

Last weekend, as we drove into Redmond, a jacked-up white pickup turned left in front of us. There was an American flag flapping and snapping in the wind. Mom commented on it and wondered why someone would carry a flag around while they’re driving. As he finished his turn, a Confederate flag flew next to the American flag. The man drove away with his flags, leaving behind a message about where his allegiances were. I felt sad, frustrated, angry, and disappointed.

I thought about the semantics of the American flag… what it means to me and what it may mean to him.

I look at the red, white, and blue and think about the best our country can be.

That our nation is just beginning to truly offer liberty and justice for all, regardless of skin color, religion, sexual orientation, or creed.

The meaning of the flag for him is probably vastly different.

When I see an American flag smacking in the wind in the back of a truck, I think of freedoms being taken away.

When I see a Confederate flag flying next to it — the flag that represented an effort focused on the dissolution of the United States and the continuation of slavery, I’m more convinced of my interpretation.

That being said, I understand my interpretation may be wrong. I haven’t spoken to the person flying the flag in the bed of their truck. I don’t know them or their reasons for flying the colors.

It reminds me of an experience I had while covering the George Floyd Memorial event in Village Green Park on July 26, 2020. The people gathered there were honoring a life lost under horrendous circumstances. There were American flags flying for that event, too. As I listened to a speaker, I saw a heavy-duty, white pickup parked on the far side of the park. A man behind the wheel had a cowboy hat on. A woman sat next to him. I wondered why they were there, and hoped they meant the people in the park no harm. I made an assumption about their vehicle and clothing. When the event was over, they got out of the truck and walked directly toward me.

As they got closer, I recognized them and felt equal parts relief and guilt. The woman was my cousin, the man her husband. They were family. People I knew weren’t there to harm anyone. My cousin’s husband said, “I hope you weren’t wondering why we were sitting in the truck. I didn’t want to scare anybody with my hat and truck, especially after what happened in Portland earlier.”

I thanked him for his consideration, and we sat down at a picnic table and got caught up. That situation brought home how important it is to not make assumptions that take away the possibility there’s another reason for what I’m seeing.

A friend of mine said to me many years ago that she didn’t like seeing white supremacists use the flag as a representation of their beliefs. She said, “It’s my flag too.” That hit home for me. I don’t want to see the American flag flown by deluded white supremacists and feel anger toward it. While I respect the American flag, I don’t worship it. It’s a symbol for our nation and its citizens, both veterans, soldiers, and those who choose not to fight. I refuse to allow the flag to be hijacked by some and its meaning changed to fit ideals that slam the country in reverse.

We are a hopeful nation because we are willing and capable of change. The flag has flown for hundreds of years, and its meaning has changed as we’ve changed. I will continue to look ahead to an even better state of our union. The flag represents resiliency, justice, pride, and humility. I will continue to look at our flag and remember my husband’s footsteps up our entryway when he returned from a mission during the Iraq War. I will see my father’s service on a destroyer during the Korean War and my nephews’ service in the Coast Guard, Navy, and Air Force. That’s what makes me proud of our flag… no matter who else uses it in hopes of pulling us backward.

Just as my face speaks words without a sound, so do the flag and other symbols.

I wish for this generation, and those to come, a country where their flag means freedom, justice, and liberty… but most of all love of our country and each other.

That means transmuting our differences into shared visions for a safer, healthier, and loving nation for all.

It won’t be easy.

Even as gun violence broke through the veil of safety we might have felt in Central Oregon, I know this nation works best when there’s an immense problem to solve.

That opportunity is now.

And as we achieve that goal, the flag and our faces will reflect a sense of pride and hope for a promising, healthier future for all.

 

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