Liberty and Justice for All

I’ve been surrounded by veterans my entire life. My maternal grandfather was stationed in the Philippines for a short time near the end of WWII, and my paternal grandfather, though he never saw combat, served in the Navy at the very end of WWII. My mom’s uncle was an Army pilot during Korea and Vietnam, and was just shy of becoming a full colonel (he chose his family over his rank). My uncle served in the Army during Korea, and my mom’s cousin recently retired from service in the Army. Since getting married, I have gained many more veteran family members. My father-in-law was a Green Beret during Vietnam, and Hubster has many family members who served in the Army and the Marines. Most importantly, however, my brother-in-law is currently serving our nation proudly as a member of the Air Force. His current assignment?: interrogating and infiltrating in Afghanistan. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about him and his family, and pray for his wellbeing over in the Middle East.

With this weekend being Memorial Day, everyone posted about “It’s not just a day off” and “Enjoy your picnics for those who can’t,” but really, the United States took pause to remember those who have given their lives in defense of our country’s freedom. Though it is always important to honor living veterans and current service men and women, Memorial Day is to honor the fallen, those who gave the last full measure of devotion (to quote Abraham Lincoln).

I consider myself fairly patriotic. I’m not an all-‘Murica-all-the-time type of person, but I believe in my country and I take pride in calling myself a citizen of the US of A. That being said, some of my biggest pet peeves revolve around the desecration of national symbols:

  1. When people screw around with the “Star Spangled Banner.” It’s our National Anthem, not a pop song. Yes, the tune was originally a drinking song, but please sing it with some pride and respect.
  2. When recordings of TAPS are played in lieu of a live trumpeter. Please just hire a trumpet player, it makes it so much more meaningful.

People’s sheer ignorance and disregard for others’ opinions really baffles me sometimes. I was once again reminded of this fact on Sunday at church. While rehearsing with my brass choir, a sacristan (what other churches might call an usher) brought the American flag into the sanctuary. While some churches display the flag every Sunday, my church only displays it in the sanctuary for national holidays, such as Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Independence Day. The sacristan placed the flag on the stage left side of the pulpit and began exiting the sanctuary, when someone from my group called down to him that he had placed the flag on the incorrect side. According to the US Flag Code:

When displayed from a staff in a church or public auditorium, the flag of the United States of America should hold the position of superior prominence, in advance of the audience, and in the position of honor at the clergyman’s or speaker’s right as he faces the audience.

Keep in mind, the two gentlemen in my group who were informing this sacristan of his mistake have been a) a community band director for 30+ years and b) a boy scout leader for 20+ years, so they definitely know what it is they’re talking about. The sacristan, however, was insistent that he was correct because the flag was on the floor, not up on the platform, and left it where it was. When the choir director arrived, someone mentioned to her that the flag was on the wrong side, and overhearing this, a choir member piped up that the flag shouldn’t even be in the sanctuary to begin with, and when asked why not, she stated because of separation of church and state. Now, I’m not sure if this woman simply forgot or was never taught, but any student of US government knows that separation of church and state means the state has no jurisdiction over what churches do and visa-versa; it doesn’t mean you don’t display national symbols in churches or church symbols in government buildings. She was absolutely insistent that this was an absolute abomination, and when someone began to say “But it’s a symbol of (our country)” she cut him off saying “Of war? It’s a symbol of war, and if we don’t support war we shouldn’t have it in here.” Last time I checked, even though the flag is carried in war, I don’t ever remember it being a symbol of war specifically. I could be wrong though….

I understand that everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion, but the fact that this woman was so dreadful about having a simple, civilized conversation about this matter was appalling, ESPECIALLY on a Sunday morning AT CHURCH. Her brother was a former pastor of the church, and apparently he felt the same way, therefore she felt entitled to force that opinion on everyone. I was then asked if the brass could not play “Onward, Christian Soldiers” for the prelude. Initially, I agreed, but then I realized I was not going to let one offended individual affect my plan or my patriotism. Besides, “Onward, Christian Soldiers” is the song of the Salvation Army, and if someone can find me an organization that stands more for peace and justice than the Salvation Army, I would be happy to know it. So “Onward, Christian Soldiers” we played, the choir sang “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” (the hymn of the US Navy), the flag stayed on the incorrect side, no one got violent, no one died, nothing exploded or imploded.

There is a fine line, I suppose, between both sides of any argument. There are people who put their own lives on the line, as well as had loved ones die for their country, and there are people who are vehemently against fighting of any kind. There are people who always have to be correct and are willing to sacrifice rules and regulations to ensure their own reputations, and there are people who will always point out what is right in order to maintain dignity. I always find it interesting that those people who feel so strongly about peace and equality only feel that way if you agree with their opinion; the second someone presents an opposing view, that person is wrong because he/she disagrees with the peaceful person’s views. This whole experience was borderline mortifying, especially in light of everything Memorial Day stands for. As a family member of so many current and past service members, and more importantly, as an American, I will continue to play music that honors the country and those who serve it, I will continue to be proud of my country and its accomplishments, and I will ALWAYS display the flag correctly.

A friend of mine who is a Catholic priest posted the following statement on Facebook yesterday: “Thankful for the men and women who have and who continue to protect our freedom given to us by GOD!” That’s right, I said it. One nation, UNDER GOD, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. God Bless America!

****Click to read the entire US FLAG CODE****

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