By Samir Shukla
I grabbed the flag from the closet and placed it on a pole on the deck. There was hardly any breeze. The flag hugged the pole most of this July day. The fireflies hovering about the yard in the late evening seemed like distant fireworks nudging the flag to flutter. That night, the stars and the moon goaded the wind and the red white and blue happily fluttered. An hour further a gaggle of stars sprinkled the sky, as if trying to outnumber the stars on the flag.
It’s midnight now and the flag seems to have won the numbers contest with the stars as the night moves, the twinklers are fewer on this side of the night, on my patch of the sky, as the earth continually spins on her axis.
There’s always a little extra buzz in the month of July, fully laden with summer heat, evoking patriotism, locking itself on the calendar as the pivot month taking the year into its second half. It’s the birth month of the country, reminding all our democracy’s fragility. The continuing work that’s needed to keep the Republic united and strong. Most folks get a bit patriotic during this month, me included. After the extra drizzle of patriotism in early July, I set the rest of the month on cruise, bones continually warmed by the lovely heat, letting the days pass by in rotating ticks and tocks of summertime bliss. It’s a welcome patch of smoothness, no matter how short, in the daily roughness of life.
The flag’s patience with citizens is limitless. Especially with the hollow patriotism of word droppers, “freedom” being the main symbolic word these droppers drop. The word is so vast and can mean so many different things to different people. The real feel of freedom is like a ladder for different socio-economic classes. Economic security always means more freedom. The word is used and abused so often by politicians and partisans that it rings hollow in their infirm mouths.
The true meaning of freedom is a hand stretched out to neighbors and fellow citizens unlike yourself to lock in unity, not brashness cocked into the triggers of guns or uniforms of self-righteous seditionists. Of course, we must defend true liberty, attacks on our solidarity and country, whether they are physical, psychological, or technological. This means weapons must occasionally be brought into play. Sometimes an eye for an eye is the only solution.
The country’s flag is a symbol of freedom, of course, but it is oft abused as a wrap by weak-minded chest thumpers, easily duped by TV personalities and self-serving politicians. The flag doesn’t proudly flutter but goes limp in the toxic hands of partisanship and narcissism disguised as patriotism.
This symbol watches over us citizens as we argue and spar, unite or divide over our ideologies of democracy, citizenship and country. It watches over us during every election cycle, the action of democracy.
This year’s political battles are being set for the midterm elections as the primaries roll along around the country, setting in place a plethora of candidates in myriad candidacies, local, regional, statewide, and national. The word freedom will be bandied about by many as if saying it qualifies them for public office. The stench of political commercials on TV will invariably get even more stinky as the summer progresses toward fall and into November.
The ideas of freedom and the symbolism represented by the American flag need our unending vigilance.
The flags of July will remain steadfast. They must.