We had a dog—a Cocker mix—named “Ginger”. She didn’t know she was a dog. She thought she was a people. She was dumb as the proverbial board; but, she was gentle and loving, and she lived a long and pampered dog’s life.
I tried to teach her to fetch. I’d throw a ball; but she wouldn’t chase it (our eldest son said she was smart: she knew if she went after it, I’d just throw it again.) But, I persisted. I’d throw the ball, and she’d jump around and watch it, and wag her tail (actually, she wagged the hind half of her body!).
I’d point to the ball, and yell, “Fetch!” And she’d get all excited and jump around and wag away; and the more animated I became, the more excited she became. I’d point my finger and yell, “Fetch!” and she’d jump around and wag herself and look… at my finger.
There is some question as to the authenticity and origin of the statement, but I recall what came to me as a quote from a Buddhist teacher: “I am a finger pointing to the moon. Don’t look at me; look at the moon.”
Our American flag, the “Stars and Stripes,” under which I served in Vietnam, and to which I have pledged my allegiance for over 70 years, has become an end in itself, and a growing segment of our population is becoming distracted from the reality toward which it points: “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” [italics added]
Imagine: we are fighting over the flag, while trampling all over the “liberty and justice for all” to which it is pointing. Which is the greater disrespect: to disrespect the flag, or to disrespect that for which it stands?
And, by the way, how does one disrespect the flag? According to the Flag Code, established June 14, 1923, some of the ways to disrespect the flag include:
· Wearing the flag, or its representation, “as clothing, or using it as drapery or bedding”;
· Printing or otherwise impressing it, or its representation, “on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard”;
· Using it “for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever”;
· Embroidering it “on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like…”;
· Using it “as a costume or athletic uniform”; [I presume “Uncle Sam” is excepted, grandfathered into the Flag Code, since he pre-dates the Code by some 110 years.]
Having just celebrated Memorial Day along with the rest of America, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we express our patriotism, and it seems to me that working for the “liberty and justice for all” to which the flag points, would be an excellent way to demonstrate our love for our flag and, more importantly, for what it represents.
And for those who would presume to establish their own demonstrations of patriotism as the standard for everyone else, and who stand in judgment over those who don’t measure up to their standards, I would ask:
· Have you served in the military?
· Have you served under fire?
· Have you thanked someone who has served under fire?
· Have you held public office?
· Have you been a candidate for public office?
· Have you contributed or otherwise helped in a campaign for public office?
· Have you voted in every election?
· Have you communicated with the public officials who represent you?
· Have you worked in some concrete, tangible way to bring about “liberty and justice for all?”
· Have you listened to, and tried to understand, the views of someone who represents a different perspective that you, but who, nevertheless, loves this country, too?
Those are some of my own standards of patriotism. I don’t claim the list is complete; but, it’s where I start. And, at the risk of sounding boastful, yes, I have done all the above. And I invite your contributions to my list.
And in a related perspective, I remember one who said, “Take the log out of your own eye before removing the speck from someone else’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5)
I hope I’m looking at the moon, and not just the fingers that are pointing to it.
That’s the way it looks through the flawed glass that is my world view.
Together in the Walk,
 http://www.ushistory.org/documents/pledge.htm: The Pledge of Allegiance was written in August 1892 by the socialist minister Francis Bellamy (1855-1931). It was originally published in The Youth's Companion on September 8, 1892. Bellamy had hoped that the pledge would be used by citizens in any country.
In its original form it read:
"I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
In 1923, the words, "the Flag of the United States of America" were added. At this time it read:
"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
In 1954, in response to the Communist threat of the times, President Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add the words "under God," creating the 31-word pledge we say today. Bellamy's daughter objected to this alteration.