Date: October 29, 2009
Opinion: Salute symbol of liberty, justice
We think a plan, recently proposed by Republican state lawmakers, that would require that public elementary and high schools instruct students on the proper use and display of the American flag is a good idea and deserves to be made into law.
Of course, it would be wrong if this were just a cynical ploy to use the revered symbol of American patriotism and unity to gain cheap political advantage in the next election. ("Why my opponent is so out of touch, he voted against the American flag!")
And, since local control of school curriculum has been an article of faith with the GOP, it may seem strange that Republicans are in the forefront of pushing a mandate of what can be taught in local classrooms.
And, of course, youngsters who have been in Scouting organizations or similar groups will have gotten at least the rudiments of the U.S. flag code there, so a classroom session in high school may seem a bit like dejà vu.
However, if the purpose really is to teach students about the flag and its meaning, we hope the classes actually tell this important part of the American story.
Americans have a relationship to their flag that is truly unique. Some countries actually have two or even more versions of their national emblems. One is a state flag, usually with some crest or symbol, flown on government buildings. The other is a civil flag that can be used by any citizen, although only on certain national holidays.
That would seem strange to Americans, who see their flag as not representing only their government but their country as a whole and belonging to every person in it.
Of course, Americans' veneration for their flag seems odd to people from other countries. Visitors often remark at seeing the flag displayed everywhere by all sorts of people in a way that would be considered odd, at best, at home or even hostile.
That's not to say that the U.S. flag has never been politicized. Periodically, one political fringe or another will try to claim a superior "Americaness" and try to hijack the flag for its own purpose. Fortunately, Americans have always been able to reclaim that symbol and remind ourselves that it truly does stand, in the words of the Pledge of Allegiance, for "liberty and justice for all."
If that is really what the new law would promote, a love and respect for the flag and the ideals it represents for all Americans of every race and creed and political stripe, then it deserves the support of all citizens.
Because that's something we can all salute.
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