Is our American flag just a flag?

No! Far more than that, it stands as a symbol of freedom from tyranny, uniting us and giving us hope. Remember 9/11? After the dust settled, how did you feel when you saw the flag rising above the rubble?

The radical left is trying to destroy the symbolic power of our flag and remove it from the public square. And they want to rob us of our national anthem, historic story, heroes and statues, moral code, motto, and much more.

Some weeks ago it was the John Wayne statue in an airport—because he was a racist and homophobe, they said. Now it is the Betsy Ross flag with its 13 five-pointed stars arranged in a circle, representing the unity of the 13 colonies. Poor Betsy, how would she feel if she saw our sacred symbol under siege?

Meaning of the American flag

The American flag first became significant during the American Revolution when it was raised at Gen. George Washington’s headquarters. Throughout our history the flag was used to mark forts and naval ships. In battle, a standard-bearer carried the flag on behalf of soldiers.

Americans revere everything Old Glory stands for — life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, a government by the people and for the people. Our flag is worn proudly by men and women in military uniform, and also by first-responders.

“Our flag has become a symbol above politics. It is the symbol of that which unites us,” says John Hartvigsen, president of the Vexillological Association (study of flags). “It’s the flag that brings us together.”

Certainly since the Civil War, Americans have looked to the flag to remind us that we are one nation despite our differences, despite our hardships. In our darkest times and in our greatest triumphs, the flag has evoked our emotions, filling us with courage, hope, and love.

The power of symbols

Our lives are filled with symbols — wedding rings, baby shoes, family heirlooms, photo albums, personal mementoes and keepsakes. These special objects are important to us because they arouse an emotional response residing deep within us.

A symbol is a thing that represents or stands for something different. Most often it is a material object that represents an abstract concept. The Statue of Liberty might represent freedom, a dove, the Holy Spirit, or a red rose, love.

A symbol differs from a sign, which refers to a signal or notice, or warning like a red stop sign. But a symbol points to another reality, something that is unseen and invisible. Not only this, but it also participates in the reality to which it is pointing—this what makes a symbol so powerful.

Charged with emotional energy, the symbol is capable of delivering a profound idea, transforming our psychic energy, or galvanizing great sources of energy within a group of people.

Years ago, the Lord said to me, “You are like a treasure chest, packed full of treasure.” This symbolic picture empowered me to do many things in the years ahead.

Christian philosopher Paul Tillich says: “Nothing speaks to us more profoundly than our symbols. Man’s ultimate concern must be expressed symbolically, because symbolic language alone is able to express the ultimate.” (Dynamics of Faith)

The fundamental values of our country are also expressed in symbols — the bald eagle, Statue of Liberty, Liberty Bell, our motto “In God We Trust” and the Star-Spangled Banner ... the American flag.

These cultural symbols enable us to transcend difficult situations, bring together shattered fragments of our society, and unify our diverse group of people.

Wave your flag high — don’t hide in fear

According to Tillich, “The flag participates in the power and dignity of the nation for which it stands. Therefore, it cannot be replaced except after an historic catastrophe that changes the reality of the nation which it symbolizes. An attack on the flag is felt as an attack on the majesty of the group in which it is acknowledged. Such an attack is considered blasphemy.”

What can you do in response to the current disrespect for the flag? Why not simply lift up Old Glory in whatever way you can — put one in your yard, attach it to your car, wear it as jewelry or on your clothing, drape it on your fence, or hang it on your house or porch. Be creative.

Let everyone know you are standing up for our flag, because it symbolizes the ideals upon which our republic was founded: life, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness.

Judith Doctor, RN, MSW, is an Arcadian author, speaker, educator and spiritual life mentor. Her books on dreams and forgiveness are available on Amazon and other online booksellers. She can be followed on Facebook at Christian Dream Interpretation, reached by email at doctorj@judithdoctor.com, or at www.judithdoctor.com.

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