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A challenge for everyone

There’s another “challenge” running around on the Internet, and this one, frankly, makes me angry. Not disgusted. Not perturbed, but downright angry. Old Testament prophet style anger is something I try to avoid, since it leads to wrath, which is not our privilege. Wrath is reserved for God, and let’s face it, He does a pretty impressive job with it when He so chooses.

But I must shamefully admit, this is one time I wish that just for a little while, I had control of a few lightning bolts, or some really nasty plagues. Maybe even just one little cloud of burning hail.

I won’t use the fellow’s name, since I have no intention of expanding his fame. He apparently has decided that America is basically a bad, wrong place, and like everyone else with a cause these days, he has created a challenge video. It shows this fellow stomping on an American flag.

Now, I have no problem with dissent; I have no problem with vehemently critical dissent. Kafka’s rejoinder that we should only read things that bite and scratch and kick us in the soul was not so much a reflection of his disturbed psyche, but of his desire that we should all be able to defend our positions and opinions. Being able to, point for point, break down our critics is vital, if we hope to have a civilized discussion and possibly change a mind. I draw the line, however, when criticism and dissent turn into vulgar, adolescent grandstanding.

The Supreme Court has ruled that burning an American flag is free speech; ergo, stomping, pulling and (as in one challenger’s case) sawing the flag back and forth in a way I won’t describe here, are also protected as free speech. Sadly, the Supreme’s didn’t affirm my right as a patriotic American to punch such folks in the nose – but there again, there’s that wrath thing again.

This…fellow…has every right to dislike this country. He has every right to complain that he doesn’t have free everything, as he says online, he deserves. He has the right to despise those who are wealthy, whether or not they earned their money or inherited it. What’s most important is that even he, as small a minority as he might be, has the right to try to change those things – but it’s because of what that flag represents.

When I saw that…fellow…stomping and abusing an American flag, the pain it caused me was palpable. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I take pride in that flag. I appreciate the sacrifices made under that flag, the blood and pain and treasure given by those who wanted a country where people could have a chance to determine their own course.

I have never, nor do I ever intend to, pledge allegiance to the government that serves under that flag. Some probably well-meaning social scientists have rewritten the pledge to the flag to reflect that. Look it up online if you don’t believe me.

My country – our country – and the government that helps it operate are two distinct entities. Ideally, we elect our leaders who then manage the functions necessary to provide what Americans want. Sadly, we are rapidly allowing the bureaucracy of government to instead dictate what those ‘electeds’ do. The bureaucratic tail wags the governmental dog like a lost hound who pops out of the woods behind a church homecoming dinner.

This young man who issued his challenge – which was taken up by any number of people, all of whom are enjoying seeing themselves do stupid things online—rants at one point about how the government can solve all his problems, but wealthy people prevent the kindly functionaries from doing so. Apparently he’s of the crowd who think that tail should be wagging even harder.

I was headed home to Kelly the other day whilst I was grumbling about this fellow. The lady on the radio was talking about how some folks in Baltimore had stood up to the rioters there, and instead of looting a business to protest alleged police brutality, they were cleaning up their neighborhood. 

I waved as I passed Charles’ store—one of my favorite veterans was limping his way inside. I happened to glance toward our church, and there in a perfect spring sunset was our big American flag. That flagpole was lovingly maintained by a Korean War veteran until his death; he felt it was necessary to have a flag that stood out, since without the sacrifices made under that banner, we likely wouldn’t be able to worship as we so choose.

I swung in at the store, hoping to get a picture of the flag with the sun just so, and instead I stopped and thought a minute. Right there in the parking lot—had anyone been around, they might have thought me nuts—I took off my hat, put my hand over my heart, and recited the Pledge of Allegiance.

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

I didn’t video my odd little moment; I didn’t send it out across social media. I wanted just a minute to remind myself of what we have, and what I love.

I want to issue a challenge of my own, if you don’t mind. 

Next time you’re in a public place where there’s an American flag flying (and those are slowly going away), stop, face the flag, and say the pledge. There’s no reason to be embarrassed, and there’s no place in America that should be considered off-limits to patriotism. I’m not asking anyone to use my name; I’m nothing but another American. If you want to video it and call it the “Something or other” challenge, I ask you to pick the name of a veteran.

Even if we disagree on everything but the color of the sky, once we realize that we can respect each other’s differences, and still have our own opinions, maybe we can find some common ground and come up with a compromise – under the shadow of the flag of the greatest country on Earth, as opposed to standing on it or stomping it in the gutter for the sake of a few thousand “Likes” on Facebook.

I have a gut feeling that there are a lot more folks out there willing to pledge to their flag, rather than to stomp on it – but that’s just my opinion.

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