A Symbol Defined — Cagle

Somehow, for me, the flag essentially hung there, like the coconut head. It was largely unremarkable and too, in time, blended in with its surroundings. I didn’t harbor disrespectful feelings for it…it really just left me feeling indifferent.

As I grew older my attitude toward the flag remained unchanged. I saw Team U.S.A. goalie Jim Craig drape himself with it during the 1980 Olympics. I watched as it was dramatically folded and handed to widows of those who have served our country’s armed forces. I watched natives of other lands burn and otherwise destroy the flag, but all I could muster was, “Whoa, what’s their problem?”

I was against flag burning, again, out of deference to those in our military who had died in defense of the country. I valued my freedoms and still do, particularly the one that allows for freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Even when (no, especially when) I’m coming off half-cocked. The flag held greater meaning for those people laying it all on the line for all of us. I could respect that, even if tears didn’t well in my eyes during the playing of “God Bless America” against the backdrop of a waving red, white and blue cloth with stars and stripes. After all, it’s only a symbol, right?

Yes, it is only a symbol.

Beginning September 11, 2001, that symbol began to mean a whole lot more to me.

Wait now, don’t cue up that insipid country music song, “Proud to be an American.” Sappy sentimentality is not my bag here. But I can honestly say, without a doubt, that following the sucker punch attacks on New York City’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon, that I love the U.S. flag.

Once the United States was attacked, we reached for our shield, our badge of pride. It hangs from the front porch of virtually every home on my street, and it can be assumed that is par for the course around the country. Given the staggering amount of flags that have been snatched off the shelves of stores across the nation, it seems I am not the only schlub who needed to be reintroduced to Old Glory.

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