Posted by: kgnarlym | December 3, 2012

To Be United

Why do we wave the Flag when a fallen soldier returns home?

Today’s paper includes a piece about a tribute to a fallen Marine from New Prague, Minnesota. More than 100 volunteers showed up on short-notice to place thousands of flags along a route in honor of one of their own.

A not uncommon scene, to be sure, but this struck me somehow. These men give their lives in service of the geographical, political, ideological, economic, and social constructs represented by the flag. Whatever their reasons for enlisting, all of the above are reasons for their fate.

At any rate, to me, the flag is a sure symbol of unity. A painfully short-sighted unity, but it is a symbolic stitch, weaving together the fabric of a nation. We fly the flag to honor the fallen soldier, but never the fallen everyday-citizen. And this saddens me greatly.

I mean no disrespect to military families, military personnel, nor the military-complex itself. Quite the opposite, in fact.

I respect so greatly the sacrifice these people and their families make that I am horrified to know they are dying for people we fail to honor and acknowledge ourselves. Everyone loves a celebrity. Politicians carry great power and responsibility. Soldiers shoulder the heaviest burdens of our existence, meeting face-to-face with the most compelling of our questions of existence on a daily basis.

But where, in this fracas of focalized attention, is the acknowledgement of the little old lady who volunteers her time to keep a foodshelf running? Or the teachers who spend their own limited resources to give an entire community’s children a chance to learn? Or even the homeless man, who quietly left this Life last night in the cold, with no fanfare and no spectacle?

I know my point isn’t particularly clear, and my lead-in has all kinds of misconnections, but I am deeply disturbed by the attitudes we show as a culture on this matter.

Enlisting for service, and subsequently giving your Life, is an extraordinary act taken by ordinary people. We are all people.

Call me a Socialist, or any awful name you need to, but I feel that if we took one percent of the spectacle that goes into honoring the military and applied that to the entire rest of the anonymous-population, we would not only be doing Right by each other in general, but in particular, we would be doing Justice to what the men and women in uniform are all about.

The flag we wave in support of the military is a flag which represents us all. It is a symbol of brotherhood, of sisterhood, indeed of family and community, to which we all belong. If the flag is worth fighting for, so are the people it represents.

Red, White, and Blue; and this much is True: that ALL men are created equal.

I honor our veterans by seeing them as the ordinary, even flawed, and wonderfully-Human Beings that they are. They matter because they are a part of this nation, not just because they were willing to go to war. They matter because they are People. Without their service, I would still salute them and wave the flag because it represents us ALL.

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