A LONELY FLAGPOLE ON A FIELD
Like many Alabamians this past week, I spent the night preparing and traveling for the Friday night ritual of High School Football. In my case, I was attending the West Blocton High School football game which was hosted by the Sumter County Jaguars in Livingston, Alabama. That game started for me as most games do for the visiting team. My wife and I found our way from the parking lot and through the gate as we endeavored to acclimate to our unfamiliar surroundings and pick out that perfect spot on the bleachers amongst the hearty, faithful, and heavily dressed fans who were equally engaged in the never ending quest to maintain warmth and comfort in the elements on a cool October night. Thankfully, my wife is an expert when it comes to finding the perfect spot and so we settled in pretty quickly. The athleticism displayed during the game is always fun to see, but in full disclosure my real reason for coming was to watch my daughter and niece, both of whom march during the halftime show with the West Blocton “Fighting Tiger” Band. The musical prowess of these kids is really spectacular to see considering their age and station in life. One might say that Mr. Cox has endeared himself into the hearts and minds of these kids in much the same way as Glenn Holland did in the film “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” (you millennials should watch that movie if you’ve never seen the film).
So as we prepared to watch and enjoy the game Friday night, something truly unusual and striking occurred. As the announcer made his usual call for the crowd to stand for the singing of the National Anthem, everyone within the sound of his voice rose predictably to their feet. Hats were removed and placed dutifully over hearts. Chilled hands covered the hearts of those who were without hats and all eyes turned to the field’s edge and rested on the empty and lonely flagpole that stood solemnly over the field. A young and talented voice began singing over the crowd as the soloist began lifting our spirits by singing the lyrics of our National Anthem. As she sang, we watched onward in anticipation of the raising of “Old Glory.” But as she concluded her rendition and brought the anthem to its close, we continued to watch for the raising of the flag. But “Old Glory” was never raised. In fact, I was stunned and shocked when I looked around me and saw the headgear going back on, hands returning to the deep pockets for warmth and the gaze of the crowd shifting downward to the field of play as fans returned to their seats. “Are we really about to start this game with no flag on the pole?” I asked myself. As I stood in my own confusion and disbelief, it became abundantly clear to me that this alternate universe that I had just entered into was real. The sickness in my stomach aside, the game started and ended without our American flag and I just like the rest of the dazed and confused took my seat.
I’ll be the first to admit that I generally take a keen interest in National politics. Like so many of us engrossed in political stories, I’ve seen the disgraceful treatment of our American flag in the media by those who would choose to use it as a political cudgel. We’ve all seen it burned and we’ve seen the flags of other countries raised in prominence above our inverted flag in an effort to show our subservience to other nations and the ultimate disrespect of what our flag represents. I’ve even seen videos and pictures of crowds of protesters treating our flag with such vitriolic hatred in the streets that, at least to me, it could almost be compared to the treatment that Christ received in route to the crucifixion.
All this being said, I don’t think I could ever assume to know what our American flag means to these people who would treat it with such contempt. I do have my own ideas about what it means to me but mostly I just keep those silly little notions to myself. But since “Old Glory’s” absence over the field last night left me feeling so alone in this world and confused, if I may, let me share with you some images I see when I think of our American Flag…..
When I think of our American flag, I see her draped over the casket of a young man or woman whose earthly remains, however much or little are left, are being carefully removed from the cargo hold of an aircraft that has just returned from the other side of our war torn and dangerous world. I doubt very much that anyone ever expects to come home this way.
When I think of our American flag, I see “Old Glory” as she leans into the wind atop the US Marine Corpse war memorial in Arlington, Virginia. There were over 26,000 American casualties on that tiny island in the Pacific and 6,800 Americans lost their lives there over the course of just 36 days.
When I think of our American flag, I see her standing resolute and defiant above the ashes and buried bodies of 3,000 Americans and first responders that were killed in the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11. Not including the 6,000 or so that were injured.
When I think of our American flag, I see the aged Veteran in the wheelchair who visits the WWII museum for the very first time. It only took him 95 years to get here, but thanks to patriotic volunteers and honor flights that brought him to Washington D.C. free of charge, the aged heart heals and the memory of the 407,000 American soldiers killed in WWII and the 33,000 killed in Korea are honored and remembered for another day……a good day.
When I think of our American flag, I think of the 9,300 American graves in Normandy. I think of the 130,000 or so soldiers who are buried in 25 official American cemeteries in over 10 foreign countries.
When I think of our American flag, I see the image of the Vietnam veteran standing at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. He weeps alone as he leans into and places his hands upon just one of the 58,000 names on the wall…..the name of one of the best men he ever knew.
When I think of our American flag, my mind breaks because it strains to comprehend the untold bloodshed, death, and destruction that has been required of a nation to secure liberty and freedom over the course of 240 years. What has been the price of my freedom and my liberty if it is not the countless lives that have been lost on the battlefield in American history. If we are all Americans, then what is our cost going forward? People may say that it’s a cliche but our liberty has a price. Unless it’s biblical, freedom is not free.
The West Blocton Tigers soundly defeated the Sumter County Jaguars Friday night by a score of 56-0. But I can tell you from the heart that I really missed seeing our American flag up there more than anything that night. It’s a good testament of the people of our nation that we can so tolerate the disrespect of others. Sometimes though, I seriously wonder if we should.
Written by Micah Daniel – A Resident of Bibb County, Alabama
The Views expressed in this Guest Editorial are solely those of the guest writer and not necessarily those of The Bibb Voice.