By: Columnist Bob Grafe
Flag Day has always been one of my favorite days of reflection. As a native born citizen of the United States of America, the flag brings back many positive memories as I look back over the years.
My earliest recollection of the American flag having special meaning came during my elementary school days when I stood at attention each school day morning and recited my Pledge of Allegiance to the flag.
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
As I recall, I did not then, nor would I ever, pledge “allegiance” to any other country’s flag; I knew in my heart that I was a part of a very special “republic” for which the flag stands; I gave many thanks that I was a part of one nation “under God” that was indivisible, a group of like-minded mostly righteous men and women from the various states; and that I was proud to live in a land allowing liberty, free from the tyranny of an unfettered government, and a land where justice for all of its citizens was a common goal.
I can remember many of my public school teachers explaining the history of the flag and sharing the inspirational story of Betsy Ross, the woman who sewed the original stars and stripes flag for the United States in her Philadelphia upholstery shop under the direction of George Washington and others.
Also, I can remember back to the time when I was so proud to become a Cub Scout at the age of 8 years old. With two fingers extended I was able to actually salute the American flag when I was in uniform as I recited the Pledge of Allegiance. That salute to my flag has continued as I progressed through life as a Boy Scout (a three-fingered salute), as a member of the United States military (a full-hand salute), and today as a member of the American Legion.
During all of those experiences, the American Flag was never far from sight — often being displayed on my various uniforms, at various schools of learning, at my place of employment, at my place of worship, and at my home.
For the vast majority of citizens of the United States, the American flag represents all that is good about our country.
However, occasionally, there are anti-American flag burners who catch their brief moment of notoriety with some media coverage — but, the incidents are few and are dramatically over-shadowed by the showing of strong American pride by the majority of citizens throughout the year.
Perhaps the most flagrant disregard and lack of respect for our nation’s flag has come recently from visitors to our home country who choose to display another country’s flag in place of our American flag in an effort to gain attention to their various political causes.
Those who use the American flag in disrespectful ways to further perpetrate their frequently anti-American causes should be strongly reminded that if they are legal citizens of the country they should be ashamed; and if they are “visitors” to our country perhaps they should re-think how they would react if American citizens came to their country, took down their country’s flag, and then replaced it with our Old Glory.
Bad manners regarding our flag should not be tolerated regardless of who is being disrespectful to it. The patriotic and rightful use of our American flag belongs to the legal citizens of the United States — not to anyone else.
The American flag is our country’s most precious symbol. It is a strong part of what binds us together as a nation of those who believe strongly that our Constitution was written by men of God through divine inspiration.
As we approach another Flag Day in this great country, let us not forget that the flag deserves our constant respect, attention and protection. And, when the cloth of our nation’s flag no longer has the physical strength to withstand the burdens of the wind, the sun and other natural elements let us remember to retire the American flag with the dignity and respect that it has so dutifully earned.
A look at the law regarding respect for our Old Glory … our Stars and Stripes … our American Flag:
Federal law stipulates many aspects of flag etiquette. The section of law dealing with American Flag etiquette is generally referred to as the Flag Code. Some general guidelines from the Flag Code answer many of the most common questions:
The flag should be lighted at all times, either by sunlight or by an appropriate light source.
The flag should be flown in fair weather, unless the flag is designed for inclement weather use.
The flag should never be dipped to any person or thing. It is flown upside down only as a distress signal.
The flag should not be used for any decoration in general. Bunting of blue, white and red stripes is available for these purposes. The blue stripe of the bunting should be on the top.
The flag should never be used for any advertising purpose. It should not be embroidered, printed or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use. Advertising signs should not be attached to the staff or halyard.
The flag should not be used as part of a costume or athletic uniform, except that a flag patch may be used on the uniform of military personnel, fireman, policeman and members of patriotic organizations.
The flag should never have any mark, insignia, letter, word, number, figure, or drawing of any kind placed on it, or attached to it.
The flag should never be used for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.
When the flag is lowered, no part of it should touch the ground or any other object; it should be received by waiting hands and arms. To store the flag it should be folded neatly and ceremoniously.
The flag should be cleaned and mended when necessary.
When a flag is so worn it is no longer fit to serve as a symbol of our country, it should be destroyed by burning in a dignified manner.
By: Columnist Bob Grafe
Most senior citizens living in the United States are familiar with the country’s Constitution. In fact, many of us have actually read it “cover to cover.”
Remembering what year in elementary or high school that we actually read it may be difficult to accurately recall. However, we do remember reading it … don’t we?
Therefore, we can declare with all honesty that we have “read” the Constitution!
Can we state with that same honesty that we also comprehend the Constitution? That may be much more of a “stretch” for us to answer in the affirmative.
The Constitution actually only contains 4,543 words in the original, unamended Constitution, including the signatures. Average English readers, reading for comprehension, will average reading between 200 — 400 words-per-minute.
Even using the slower rate of the “average” results in the total time to read the Constitution with comprehension to less than 23 minutes. If you throw in reading the amendments to the Constitution as well that pushes the total time commitment to actually read the entire Constitution to 30 minutes or less for the average English reader.
Interestingly, if you are a legal immigrant to the United States you had to pass a naturalization test in order to be granted citizenship — including some questions pertaining to the Constitution.
Here are a couple of questions (and correct answers) from the actual United States naturalization test which is administered in the English language:
Q: What is the supreme law of the land?
A: The Constitution.
Q: What does the Constitution do?
A: Sets up the government; defines the government; and protects basic rights of Americans.
Q: The idea of self-government is in the first three words of the Constitution. What are these words?
A: We the People.
Q: What is an amendment?
A: A change or an addition to the Constitution.
Q: What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?
A: The Bill of Rights.
Q: What is one right or freedom (of several) from the First Amendment?
A: Speech, religion, assembly, press and/or petition the government.
Those questions require some limited recall, but other parts of our Constitution require much more thought process to fully grasp the real significance of the document keeping in mind the prophetic wisdom of John Adams who stated “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Perhaps it is time that senior citizens and others dust off their copy of the Constitution (or just go online and Google “United States Constitution text”) and take a few minutes to regain familiarity with that document that permeates all aspects of our American way of life.
If we just look at the opening words of the Constitution we realize how important this document is to our very existence as a sovereign country and society.
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union …”
Our founders had the vision for all of us that we should continually strive to better ourselves and others. This perfect “union” of the states took many drafts and many revisions to the Constitution before it was adopted. Not everyone got everything they wanted in the document; but, everyone involved had a place at the negotiating table during those 116 days during the hot summer of 1787 when the Constitutional Convention took place.
“ … establish justice …”
Even with all of its warts, our judicial system is still the envy of the world thanks to the judicial foundations laid out in the Constitution.
“ … insure domestic Tranquility … ”
This goal continues to be a work in progress as the Constitution seems to mandate that our country’s leaders strive to provide a peaceful atmosphere for its citizens to dwell within — something that is occasionally illusive.
“ … provide for the common defense …”
If not “the” most important provision in the Constitution, it certainly ranks near the top.
“… promote the general Welfare … ”
The founders never intended that a corruption of this concept into today’s “welfare system” would exist.
“ … and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity … ”
The Constitution clearly sets forth the responsibility of each generation to “secure” the blessings of liberty for both the current generation and for the generations to follow. The strict reading of this would suggest that it was intended to apply to citizens of the United States as stated in the closing words which are:
“… do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
If Thomas Jefferson were alive today he would probably challenge all senior citizens and others to reacquaint themselves with their Constitution. He might even repeat this admonition that he stated while he walked among us: “Say … whether peace is best preserved by giving energy to the government, or information to the people. This last is the most certain and the most legitimate engine of government. Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. Enable them to see that it is their interest to preserve peace and order, and they will preserve them. And it requires no very high degree of education to convince them of this. They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”