2005-06-08 / Editorials

Flag Day Deserves Attention

Next Tuesday, June 14 marks the 228th birthday of the flag of the United States of America. In the year 1777 the Continental Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes pattern for the national flag. The first Flag Day was celebrated in 1877, the flag’s centennial. Many citizens and organizations advocated the adoption of a national day of commemoration for the U.S. flag, and in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Flag Day as a national celebration, but it was only in 1949 that President Harry Truman signed legislation making Flag Day a day of national observance. By joint resolution approved June 9, 1966, Congress also requested the president to issue annually a proclamation designating the week in which June 14 falls as “National Flag Week.” All citizens of the United States are called upon to display the flag during that week.

While all citizens may be “called upon,” to display the flag during National Flag Week, we note, sadly, that few do. The flag itself seems less prominent than it once was. After 9/11, flags were everywhere; now, almost four years later, few are to be found and, we regret to say, many of those are faded and tattered. Some are left to fly all night, rather than being taken down at sunset, and in inclement weather.

Worn or faded flags should be disposed of properly, usually by burning in a private ceremony. They should never be thrown indiscriminately into the trash. And no American flag, whatever its condition, should ever touch the ground.

Flag Day itself is a much neglected holiday. Few Americans get off from work on June 14. For many years, Pennsylvania, designated Flag Day as a state holiday but in June 2002, two state employees reported that this was no longer true. To our knowledge, the day gets little attention, even as a reason for a sale.

The flag is, indeed, a symbol “of the Republic for which it stands,” according to the Pledge of Allegiance. As a symbol, it is indestructible. It was hauled down when Japanese forces invaded the Philippines and raised at Iwo Jima during World War II. It flew proudly over smoldering rubble at Ground Zero. No matter what happens to one individual flag, it remains a testament of the indomitability of the American ideal of representative democracy and liberty and justice for all. Even if Flag Day is not a specific, “day off” holiday as are Memorial and Independence Days, we should honor the flag and its day, however briefly. The Republic for which it stands is the greatest country on earth, and like the flag, belongs to us all. Taking a moment to reflect upon and appreciate that fact is the least we can do.

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