Not far from my home is a round-about with a flag pole at the center. I pass that flag pole multiple times a day. As I see the flag, I reflect on what it represents: freedom, determination, opportunity, sacrifice, values, community, love.
All too often I see the flag at half-staff. I know that symbolically we put the flag in this position to represent mourning or sadness, grief or sorrow. I believe the scripture is right when it says there is a time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).
But I can’t shake the wonder from my mind that our flag poles are too short.
If our flag is so often at half-staff, shouldn’t that be the height of the flag pole?
What does it say about me, my community, my country when the flag seems to be more often at half-staff than full-staff?
Sure, we put the flag at half-staff at the death of a beloved or noted leader in the community or country.
But so often we are compelled by destructive circumstances in our nation to put the flag at half-staff.
So I wonder.
How am I improving my own heart to bring peace to my life, to my community, to my nation?
How well am I listening to the pain of others?
How well am I building bridges of understanding?
How well am I seeking to help those who are suffering?
How well am I working to support those who need help?
How am I encouraging peace and not violence?
What am I doing to heal the wounds that create such violence?
What am I doing to keep the flag at full-staff?
What kind of American am I if I don’t use my best efforts to raise the flag as high as possible on the flagpole?
If Francis Scott Key, the famous writer of our beloved national anthem, was with us today, would he be able to write “O say can you see?” Would he have been able to see the flag through the smoke and haze if the flag had been placed at half-staff? What kind of inspiration would the flag have been to him at half-staff? Would Francis Scott Key be so inspired today to write of beloved freedom and opportunity if he saw the carnage and bloodshed we commit against each other and ourselves in our communities and across our nation?
I sorrow at the pain, the losses, the damage that is done in our communities through violence.
I desire to see communities, and our nation, at peace with the flag held high, symbolizing to all the living reality of peaceful freedom available to everyone within our borders.
How do I stop violence in my nation? By first checking my own heart. Reviewing my own fallen nature. Putting a check on my pride, my anger, my jealousy, my passions.
I contribute to a peaceful nation when I remember “Love the Lord thy God…[and] thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:36-40).
If I, and others who share this belief, act in unison, perhaps then our nation will experience the peace and prosperity it seeks and once again find its flags rippling in the breeze at full-staff.