There are 3 things that unite a diverse people:
· A common language
· A national flag
· A national song (anthem)
There are very sound historical reasons explaining the power of a national flag. Here’s a very brief synopsis from a study I did many years ago. I was making praise banners and flags for my church and wanted to understand the significance of them.
Standards of the Ancient Middle East – the Phoenicians and Greeks used them to indicate the presence of the commander on board ship & for signaling purposes. Arabian caravans used them to identify companies and for illumination at night.
The Standards of Israel – were commanded by God (Num 2:2) to identify the divisions, tribes and companies during the Exodus.
Flags of India & China – identified with the ruler; represented all attributes of kingship. To dishonor the flag was the same as a physical assault on the ruler.
Standards & Banners of Rome – a mass display of standards conveyed conquest & power.
The Middle Ages – Identified the many countries represented in the Crusades. The designs provided a history of the bearer or expressed something about them.
European Banners & Flags – Colors & designs stem from history, culture, or religion. Carried onto the battlefield by monks to inspire confidence in the troops.
Military Flags – have a practical and emotional value. Used to (1) distinguish the forces of warring armies and (2) mark in battle the position of the commander. This would provide a rallying point for the troops in the midst of confused fighting. The flag was the first object of attack in battle. If the flag bearer fell, another soldier immediately grabbed the pole and took his place.
Military flags serve as a memorial, carry the traditions and war history of the regiment and honor the fallen. They are categorized according to shape & purpose:
· Standards – mark the position of an important person.
· Banners are borne in action.
· Guidon – borne by leaders
· Pennon – carried by a knight to strike terror into the enemy and to denote rank.
· Pennant is hoisted when the captain of a warship assumes his command.
Various positions of the flag on a ship have definite meaning – victory, surrender, saluting, mourning, distress. In other words – flags communicate important messages.
Flags (including standards & banners) have meaning and purpose in the Bible, also. I won’t list all the scripture references but if anyone wants to know more, message me!
· Represent a pledge of protection
· Point to the place of refuge and signify deliverance
· Convey the idea of conspicuous presence
· Used as a war summons and a rallying point
· Symbolize unity
· Cause demoralization of the enemy
· Are raised in victory.
I got to visit Ft McHenry last year and spent hours walking the grounds and barracks, reading the history, and seeing the spot where a handmade, 30’ x 42’ flag was still visible after a night of British bombing. You can read my blog on that here, plus the web is full of information if you want more details.
As you can see, our flag is more than a piece of cloth. It represents each of us and our ancestors. Our stories, our sacrifices, our joys. Our successes and our failures - both in times of war and times of peace. All of us – as individuals and collectively as a nation.
The Star Spangled Banner is the story of just one particular instance, but it represents much of our national history. To dishonor either the flag or the anthem is to disrespect every single citizen in the country, and most especially those who serve & defend. It’s a slap in the face of brothers & sisters who work hard, pay their taxes, raise their families, support their communities, vote their conscience and help their neighbors in need.
Our country is not pristine. We have some ugly history. Not everyone has learned from it, but in the heart and soul of America, there is deep remorse for the past treatment of native people and those held in the bondage of slavery. There’s sorrow for people of other nations who died for their country as we defended ours. There's anguish at decisions made by flawed leaders that were terribly wrong. No decent human being rejoices at the suffering of others. Decent people are quietly working hard, without fanfare or publicity stunts, to right these wrongs by setting a course for an America that is truly about "liberty and justice for all." Just as we individuals are a work in progress, so is our country. What started over 200 years ago (which is young by nation standards) is still developing. But we have to be in one accord to move forward.
There are dozens of ways to educate and bring light to social justice issues, but a nation has to have some kind of common symbol to rally around, to unite the people in heart. We have to have a visual or auditory reminder that we are all members of the same tribe, with a common goal – to preserve, protect, and better the tribe. Otherwise, there’s no reason to work towards a solution for “your” problem if you don’t demonstrate respect and empathy towards anyone else. We have to agree to certain boundaries of behavior. We have to have a rallying point where we stand united so we can work together toward a better country. That’s what the flag and anthem provide for us.
Make no mistake – the USA has many enemies and they would love to see us sink deeper into division simply for the purpose of destroying & conquering. The first thing they’ll do is raise their own flag over this land. The next thing they'll do is stand and put their hand on their heart while their national anthem plays. Why in the world would you want to make that easier for them?