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The red, white, and blue American flag is striking. But more important than its aesthetic appeal is what it symbolizes.

The “Stars and Stripes,” “Old Glory,” the flag of these United States of America, is a powerful expression of the country’s ideals.

I am one who appreciates what this flag, in various forms since the Second Continental Congress’s Flag Resolution adopted June 14, 1777, represents, even beyond the colors. It embodies principles of liberty, history, pitfalls and progress, and most of all, sacrifice. Admiring the flag, caring for it, believing in what it symbolizes is a form of patriotism.

This said, I do not believe the American flag is sacred, that it is or should be raised to the level of religious icon. Nor do I think that the “Star Spangled Banner,” adopted by the Navy in 1899 and considered a de facto National Anthem by the military branches during the 19th Century, then officially adopted by Congress March 3, 1931 for the United States, is some sort of holy expression.

The fact that I don’t consider the flag sacred makes it possible for me to understand why the United States Supreme Court in Texas v. Johnson491 U.S. 397 (1989), and reaffirmed in U.S. v. Eichman496 U.S. 310 (1990), ruled that due to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, it is unconstitutional for a government (whether federal, state, or municipal) to prohibit the desecration of a flag, due to its status as "symbolic speech." Despite a number of attempts to ban the practice, desecration of the flag remains protected as free speech

I don’t like desecration of the flag, indeed despise pictures of people burning the flag. I have never damaged the flag and would not recommend this to anyone for any reason. But if someone chooses to profane the flag to express some point of view, I consider this what it is, their freedom of speech. 

Freedom of speech is what matters most, not the flag that symbolizes that freedom. This is the paradox. Someone desecrating the flag is participating in a civil liberty the flag represents. 

Something similar is occurring with “taking a knee,” the shorthand for not standing in respect during playing of the National Anthem. This has been an issue in American professional sports since 2016. 

Back in 2016-2017, I did not take a position arguing football player Colin Kaepernick crossed a line when he took a knee during the playing of the National Anthem. I said I thought the way he and others chose to protest was ill-advised and I still think this, but I did not think then and don’t think now that an athlete’s freedom of speech should be denied because the way they choose to express it offends people.

This goes both ways. I don’t like Kaepernick and now entire professional sports teams taking a knee during the National Anthem, but I think it’s their liberty to do so. I also think it is fans’ liberty to choose not to watch this protest or not to agree with this act of protesting and/or the reason for the protest or to choose not to continue watching or supporting this professional sport. Fans, at least some of them, are likely to “vote with their feet” and walk away. So, while there are guaranteed freedoms of speech there may also be consequences.

By the same token though, I don’t think football quarterback Drew Brees should have been excoriated by players and celebrities alike for simply expressing his respect for the flag, something most of the country believed just a short time ago. He’s apologized multiple times since, as has his wife, and after a while it sounds like groveling. He was verbally attacked and his character impugned for daring to express his point of view, one that at first didn’t fit the prevailing acceptable narrative so was deemed “insensitive.”

The essence of the First Amendment’s freedom of speech guarantee is that all speech that is not coupled with acts of violence may be expressed – whether or not we like the speech or find if offensive or obnoxious or even vile.

So again, I appreciate and respect the American flag and what it represents.

I do not like it when the flag is intentionally disrespected, much less desecrated.

I don’t like it when athletes and teams “take a knee” during the National Anthem, but I believe it is their right as American citizens to express themselves.

For me, the ultimate is what that flag means.

  • It means freedom of religion, speech, assembly, people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for redress of grievances, to keep and bear arms.
  • It means constitutional civil liberties and later civil rights. It means “land of the free and home of the brave.” 
  • It means ““Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
  • It means in terms of freedom the United States of America is “the last best hope of earth.”

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020    

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.

 

     Patriotism has been taking it on the nose in the USA of late. 

     Social media and Big Media alike feature wall-to-wall coverage of rioters “dissing” the country, what it stands for (or rather, what they say it stands for), and “the system.” Tearing down statues of the nation’s founders, suggesting Mt. Rushmore should be destroyed because it’s on “stolen Native American land,” refusing to stand for the National Anthem, posting anti-American diatribes on social media, and burning flags are now par for the course.

     Ironically, those expressing their displeasure are doing so in “a system” that gives them the blessing of freedom of speech, expression even, and assembly. No one tracks them down and puts them in jail for saying what they do – this even though many of these new, “woke” individuals try to “call out” and “cancel” anyone who disagrees with their point of view. 

     People sacrificed and died for our civil liberties, yet the agitators hold forth in mind-boggling lack of self-awareness, attacking the very ideals that protect their right to express themselves, however obnoxiously.

     You’d be forgiven for thinking American patriotism is dead, or at least in its last throes.

     Meanwhile, patriotism remains one of the most powerful emotions known to humanity, one of the world's most potent forces. It's something we feel more often than think about. All people around the globe feel it to one degree or another.

     But no nation possesses the wealth of patriotic symbols found in the United States. No country boasts the number of patriotic songs—enough for entire concerts and then some—as the American nation state. “USA,” “USA,” “USA” is a powerful chant. 

     Yes, it is true, the United States is far from perfect, and sometimes we struggle to realize "liberty and justice for all."  But no nation's history even remotely approaches America's attempt to believe in, fight to protect, and celebrate human freedom. No nation continues to attract immigrants from all over the world, not for the weather but for the freedom and opportunity America provides.

     Truly felt and expressed American patriotism is about more than a love for the land and a love for the people. America is about ideals. Patriotism at its best is about what we believe, what we live for and what we are willing to die for.

     American patriotism is about individual liberty, the land of the free and the home of the brave. It's about individual worth and dignity. It’s decidedly not about white supremacya recent revisionist idea masquerading as history

     American patriotism is about lex rex, “the law is king,” not rex lex, “the king is law.” No king, no president, no dictator or regime, no political entity is of greater eternal value than the single person—free to think, free to worship, free to work and own the fruits of one's labor, free to pursue opportunity. This is the national vision that gave meaning and dynamism to the first two hundred years of this nation's history.

     America’s ideals are currently being trampled by a set of agitators variously motivated by legitimate concerns about racial justice, along with considerable illegitimate concerns for greed, control, power, class or race warfare, Marxism, Leftist ideology, hate. 

     Yet these ideals are precious concepts. They are what God intended human life to be. They are worthy of patriotism.

     I sincerely hope that a new interest and support for American ideals will develop. I think they are as close to timeless as humanly constructed political philosophy can get. They work, and they have worked, with fits and spurts and improvements, for more than two centuries. We the people are imperfect. We have a checkered history, but we the people have moved toward ever greater applications of our founding, exceptional ideals, for all people of all races, ethnicities, and more.

     I hope American patriotism is not dead. Indeed, to paraphrase Mark Twain, I hope the death of American patriotism is “greatly exaggerated.”

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020    

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

Washington, DC:  U.S. National Archives--

While in the Capital awhile back, I had an hour at day’s end before meeting my son, so I visited the National Archives.

It’s been probably 50 years since I last saw the Declaration of Independence, United States Constitution, and Bill of Rights. These documents aren’t holy writ, but issued in 1776, adopted in 1789, and ratified in 1791 respectively, they remain unique in history and remarkable.

The society these founding documents made possible became, with missteps and serious grievance along the way, the freest, most abundant, grandest-in-opportunity of any nation state on earth.

For all our American faults (and we have several to which we must own up and which we need to change) still, the United States of America remains an incredible land of hope, a melting pot of gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, and religion. The ideals codified in these historic documents—freedom of religion, speech, rule of law, life, liberty, pursuit of happiness—make this society possible and viable.  The principles and values listed in these three amazing expressions of political philosopy that our forbears created (with the sacrifices of soldiers) what we call a Great Experiment, a pluralistic democratic republic. This we still enjoy today.

The challenge after nearly 250 years is whether we can preserve and pass it on to our grandchildren.

 

Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2019   

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attributionstatement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events atwww.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

 

Every presidential election cycle seems at some point to be a contest of "I-Am-More-Patriotic-Than-Thou.” Each candidate claims a higher degree of fidelity to the nation’s ideals, zeal for Americanism, and patriotic holiness.

In one sense, this is to be expected, and it is a phenomenon the world over. Politicians in nearly every country proclaim their patriotic commitment to the fatherland. Perhaps if that is as far as it goes there is nothing inherently wrong with this. In fact, one could argue that there is a lot right with this because it helps to reinforce the nation, which is to say the people’s identity and community.

In another sense this rush to patriotic holiness can be threatening. For one, politicians and people, if not also pundits, too easily wrap the Bible, or whatever holy book they affirm, in the nation’s flag. Religion and politics get confused one with the other, a particular danger for religion and an unhealthy situation for politics.

But religion, and I would say especially Christianity, should stand above and apart from politics. Why? Because in doing so Christian values and principles can be brought to bear in critical review of politics. Religion in general and Christianity specifically provide a moral standard against which politics may be evaluated and one would hope corrected and improved.

Another danger of patriotic holiness is that it gives the politician a heightened and ill-advised sense of personal rightness and righteousness. Politicians tend to believe their own press and tend to think they have a corner not only on the best policy positions but the only, and holy, ones. This attitude leads to hubris for the politician. And it dampens debate.

Patriotic holiness is mostly about posturing and parade. It’s not so much about philosophic presentation or prescient pronouncements. It’s a malady that afflicts the election process and certainly one we’d all be better off without.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

No country can live long and prosper without a sense of itself. Without a defined national identity and, better yet, national character. No country grows or moves forward in a positive way without aspiration, ambition, goals. America once possessed all these things. Now, I’m not so sure.

I’ve written earlier blogs and articles on “American Ambition Asked And Answered.” I’m concerned about what my grandchildren will not find.

I don’t cast this concern or any arguments I make in simply political terms, Right or Left, but in terms of patriotism. I care about and appreciate my country, so I must speak.

We are now in the midst of a presidential election campaign. It’s mostly noise. Look at me. I’m more-Conservative-than-thou. I’m hip and cool so what more do you need? Not much depth here. Not much moral courage, bold ideas, or statesmen or women with backbone to match their character…or is that the other way around?

I’m looking for, listening for, leaders—whatever race or ethnicity, whatever gender, whatever religion—who speak of a future toward which we can and must work together to make it a bright future. I’m listening for truly selfless, humble, nonpartisan expressions of optimism and creativity. I’m wondering if such leaders any longer exist, because I’m wondering if our culture is strong enough to any longer produce them.

America needs to define itself once again. Who are we? What really is an American?

France is in the midst of a presidential election campaign as well. The combination of high immigration and low French birthrates have resulted, for the first time in the modern nation-state, in less than 50% of the population being born in France. What does it mean, they now want to know, to be French? We don’t know what it means to be American.

Being American is more than being born here, though that could be involved. Being American is more than speaking English, though that is involved. Being American is understanding and embracing a set of ideals and an outlook on life and the future.

I’m hoping we’ve simply misplaced our understanding of what it means to be an American, rather than lost it forever. Once we find it we’ll be able to recast an American aspiration for a bright and hopeful future.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

Ambition is often misunderstood. But its absence is, eventually, noticeable and negative.

Whither Ambition

Along the way I’ve heard a sermon or two castigate the idea of ambition. I think the well-meaning speakers equated ambition with selfishness, selfish ambition, or a grab for personal aggrandizement. They took one generally listed meaning of ambition, “a desire to be successful, powerful, or famous,” and rejected the word because they looked upon success, power, and fame pejoratively. For the speakers, success, power, and fame are suspect at best, so a person with ambition for these things must already have started on the broad road to destruction.

So…”Thou shalt not be ambitious.” It sounds good so it must be in the Scripture somewhere. But the thing is, while God provided plenty of examples of how success, power, and fame can warp human perspective, he never said, “Don’t be successful, powerful, or famous.”

And God certainly never said, “Don’t be ambitious.” In fact, the Apostle Paul said it had always been his ambition to preach the Gospel where Christ was not known, and later, Paul advised believers to “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.” Only “selfish ambition” is condemnedrepeatedly—in Scripture.

Meanwhile, ambition is generally defined as “something a person wants to do or achieve” or as “a desire to do things and be active.” It’s a forward-looking attitude imbued with hope. Ambition is similar to aspiration: an aim, a goal or objective, a strong desire. Ambition is a longing to accomplish something small or great but either way, meaningful.

American Ambition Asked

I submit to you that American culture has lost its ambition. We don’t have a sense of Manifest Destiny, we’re not saving the union, we’ve already built a transcontinental railroad and the Panama Canal, we’ve not set out to make the world safe for democracy, we’re not working, if painfully, to achieve MLK, Jr.’s “Dream,” we’re not trying to put a person on the moon, and terrorism or global warming or debt reduction notwithstanding, we’re not now mutually engaged in any kind of national purpose.

America, and too many Americans, have lost any sense of ambition, don’t know why, don’t know how to rediscover it, and don’t even know if they want to find it. Political leaders are not much help. They’re focused on re-election, picayune details, hyper-partisanship, and each other. And we’re not hearing much of a grand ambition (vision for accomplishing something) from academia, celebrities, or even religious leaders.

I don’t say this so much with criticism as concern. This is my country. I’d wish better for it.

Individual Americans, of course, can be found who are exceptions to this rule. Surely there are a few ambitious visionaries out there. We just lost one: Steve Jobs. Not that his personal life was much of a model, but his ambition for greatness in his profession was a stellar example.

Meanwhile, pundits are talking about terminal adolescence, boomerang kids, Millennials without life goals, the working class with a growing sense of alienation, and the middle class confused and angered by its lack of prospects for a better future. And worse, there is the so-called underclass (I do not mean this word disrespectfully) whose lives seem adrift and hopeless without some help from the rest of us.

American Ambition Answered

What America needs is not a good 5-cent cigar but a new American ambition, and what a lot of individual Americans need is a forward-thinking, hopeful, goal for their own growth and contribution to family and society—they need ambition.

We don’t lack for ideas:

*The United States ranks 28th in the world in average Internet connection speed. We’re way behind Asian countries that have made this a national priority. Focusing upon becoming Number One in the world in Internet speed would benefit education and the economy, which is to say everyone. 

*The U.S. is ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science, and 25th in mathematics. These numbers are embarrassing, yet we continue to claim we have the best universities in the world. To regain academic performance among the nation’s youth is to regain economic prominence tomorrow. It’s not rocket science—or maybe it is.

*Even debt reduction could be a positive American Ambition if presented as something more than “Woe is me, we can’t do this anymore.” Cut yes, but to what end besides no debt? Don't just retrench, reposition. Build for the future.

I could identify other kernels of ideas capable of growing into a national ambition. But the purpose of this piece is not to list every possibility, rather to raise the issue.

Ambition isn’t bad. If governed by time-tested character values ambition is decidedly good.

Reconstructing an American Ambition capable of blessing the world should be itself a national priority. What is our destiny? Find it, go for it, do it. Inspire us to Aspire.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.