Flag Day honors what is basic and beautiful
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Flag Day honors what is basic and beautiful

Tuesday was Flag Day. Is it our imagination, or does it seem as if fewer American flags were flying?

With controversy raging in recent decades over whether burning the flag should be legal and whether it is patriotic to wear a flag pin, fewer and fewer Americans seem to be comfortable with simple expressions of patriotism. That is unfortunate.

By some accounts, June 14 honors the day in 1777 when the Continental Congress chose Betsy Ross’s design for the American flag. The U.S. Army also celebrates its birthday on this date. (The Continental Congress adopted “the American continental army” after its Committee of the Whole reached a consensus position on June 14, 1775).

Marking a day to celebrate the American flag is thought to have been initiated by Bernard J. Cigrand, a teacher who arranged for his public school students in Fredonia, Wis., to observe June 14 as “flag birthday” in 1885. In the three decades that followed, others, mostly public school teachers, followed suit. On May 30, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson made Flag Day an official national holiday.

Some people seem to be made uncomfortable by the flag, associating its display or the wearing of a flag pin with jingoism. That may be a misunderstanding. Often, it seems those who misinterpret simple love of country as something fascistic and to be feared fail to understand that it is not feelings of love but of inferiority that drive jingoism, a form of distorted pride and overcompensation.

Love of country – like identification with a religion, like love between individuals – does contain something primal, even animal, because we are human. Heaven forbid that should not be. For when we deny or feel shame for what is basic in our natures, rather than weaving it together with our higher aspirations, we deny who we are.

So let us love our nation and our flag, forever in peace may she wave.

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