July 4th – Independence Day for Americans, Saturday for the rest of the world – marked the end of three weeks spent honoring America:
Before we go back to dishonoring America, I want to share a few words in praise of prose about flags – specifically, in praise of presidential proclamations celebrating the American flag.1
I've read the last 70 years of presidential Flag Day proclamations. They're brief and simple and often follow the same pattern. Usually, they open with the creation of the American flag in 1777. The Continental Congress resolved: "that the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the Union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation."
After citing this in his proclamation, the president will list various sightings of the American flag:
when the British surrendered to General Washington at Yorktown
when our soldiers battled at Iwo Jima
when Admiral Peary reached the North Pole
on the side of the Space Shuttle Columbia as she circled the Earth
over smoky battlefields and peaceful demonstrations
the beaches of Normandy
the jungles of Vietnam
the deserts of Iraq and Somalia
the depths of Earth's oceans
the Sea of Tranquility on the Moon
on the sleeves of rescue workers
on the shoulders of those who each day risk their lives to protect the public safety
from public buildings as a sign of our national community
on missions of exploration
on missions of mercy
wherever else Americans strive to express their precious freedoms in the face of adversity
wherever our questing spirits have been willing to venture
George W. Bush
over the debris of the World Trade Center
at the Pentagon
during the Opening Ceremonies of the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City
on the podiums of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games
the banks of Baltimore's Inner Harbor
the deserts of Iraq
the mountains of Afghanistan
duty stations stretched around the globe
over the institutions that sustain our Nation at home and abroad
above monuments and memorials
beside the halls of government
our homes and storefronts
storefronts and homes3
And, of course, "over the land of the free and the home of the brave." To me, though, that's not just the borders of 50 states, 16 territories, and one federal district.
The (French) Marquis de Lafayette rejoiced at US victory in the Revolutionary War: "America is assured her independence; mankind's cause is won, and liberty is no longer homeless on earth." Lafayette was buried in a Paris cemetery, under American soil per his request, and an American flag has flown above his grave ever since (~180 years). If the US fell of the map, liberty would not be homeless on earth. It would still have a plot in Picpus Cemetery, or at least some space on a storefront.
1. I'll publish my review of The Vexillologist's Reader on another occasion.
2. In 1986, Reagan lets us know that "in recent years, citizen awareness, interest, and appreciation of the flag and its relationship to our American heritage have increased. More American families and businesses are buying and displaying the flag."
3. Obama is obsessed with storefronts.
You can read all the presidential proclamations at http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/proclamations.php.