My old friend Bill weighs in on weighty matters we need to be discussing now.
Flag at Half Mast
by Bill Chisholm
There were plenty of flags a flying just a few days ago as the nation celebrated the 4th of July. The flag is a symbol for all that the nation is and is supposed to be — its high minded founding documents, its belief in liberty and justice for all. These deep and profound purposes are mentioned in both the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the United States Constitution. But as a symbol, the flag stands not just for our words, but also our actions.
Less than four days past the 4th of July the flag is once again flying at half mast, which symbolizes a “nation in mourning”. We, now, are in mourning for five Dallas police officers that were killed, but others are mourning men, who were killed by police officers in other cities. This continuous state of mourning in which we find ourselves comes from a diet of fear and hate, which produces violence and the cycle goes on and on.
The flag is supposedly represents our nation and the values, the principles for which it stands. The Preamble to the US Constitution spells that out: “….to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and to secure the blessing of liberty to our selves and our posterity.” We don’t talk about those things much. Most of our public commentary is about guns, both at home and abroad. There is far more in the US Constitution than the 2nd Amendment. The common defense of the country is one of several purposes, but it sucks up most of the national budget and with our endless use of violence around the world, we seem less secure, not more.
The flag, a symbol, is much like a symptom. It reflects much of what we’ve become or can become. The flag flown at half mast, speaks of a nation in mourning for lost lives, but I think it speaks to something much deeper, a nation mourning its loss of center, its core principles, and its moral compass. The violence that we are experiencing is a symptom of the latter and the flag flown at half mast is symbolic of that loss.
We need to get back to the fundamentals, to discussion of the social contract which is supposed to hold this nation of diverse peoples together. We don’t have to look far, but we have to look and we have to talk about what is really going on. What is causing the divisions in a land supposedly dedicated to a “more perfect union’? If we fail to go deep, to look at what is causing this dis-ease, then we will continue to fly the flag at half mast, and there will be more and more mourning. It might even be that we take another measure in flag protocol and fly the flag upside down, a statement of a nation not in mourning, but a nation in distress.