In the last six months, flag flying has become a hot topic.
Whether it's edict, proper disposal or appreciation for, it seems everyone has had an opinion about Old Glory, especially in the aftermath of Sept. 11.
In those six months since our country was shaken by such a horrible act of terrorism, flying the colors has laid heavy on my mind, too.
I hate to admit it, but as a 20-something often referred to as "Generation X-er," I have never thought much about displaying my country's flag. I haven't lived through a so-called real war and none of my relatives fought in combat. Honestly, for me, World War II and the Vietnam War were stories read only from my history book my sophomore year of high school.
Don't get me wrong, I stand proudly when the "Star Spangled Banner" is sung at baseball games and I recite the "Pledge of Allegiance" loudly at each City Council meeting, but my family wasn't that patriotic. I don't remember even hanging a flag when I was growing up. My husband, on the other hand, was the one who reminded his mother to put it up on all the appropriate days, my mother-in-law tells me.
In fact, it is this flag that has hung on my residence for the last six months. It went up on Sept. 11 and has been removed only during high winds and heavy rains.
But I've taken it down permanently now, as I wish so many of my neighbors would also do.
The proud red stripes have faded to a sort of burnt orange and the blue has turned a purple of sorts. The white color is now nearly transparent, and its corner ripped as a reminder of the wound the flag suffered one December day when it got stuck on a nail protruding from my home's roof.
I believe it is important to be patriotic, but at the same time you can be disrespectful.
I have heard that flags should be taken down at dusk and in bad weather. No one's done this.
So now I urge others to remove their aging, faded flags and get new ones. Give them the respect they deserve.
And what about those car antenna flags?
There for awhile you could go into such stores as Macy's and pick up the item with your new tube of lipstick.
Those who didn't opt for the ones flying from the antenna attached them to the backs of car windows, and truck drivers put them on their semi trailers.
But it's sad, if not upsetting, to see them have become ripped from the wind and soiled from the road grease. Some are even missing pieces, have sorely tattered edges and each distinctive color has a muddy shade to it.
Motorists: It's time to take them down. Again, Old Glory has become too tattered to be respectful. Remove them and replace them with a sticker. Then when they fade, they can easily be replaced or removed, all together.
On a final note, I would like to voice my dissatisfaction at the commercialism of the flag. In the last six months, it seems everyone wants a piece of the red, white and blue.
Whether you're a soccer mom or Britney Spears, it's almost hip to wear a shirt with the American flag.
Go down any drug store shopping aisle and you can pick up stickers and stationary sporting it. Newspapers published full-page ads of the red, white and blue. During the primary election, I'd never seen so many flags being used in political advertisements.
And just this past weekend, I bought two plants in disposable, plastic containers from a local home improvement store. One of them was planted in a white pot with Old Glory emblazoned across it.
At first, I admit, I was moved. But the more I thought about it, the more it bothered me. After all, this was something I was going to (and did) throw away.
Our nation's symbol represents much more than a picture of a flag. The biggest thing it means to me is freedom - freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of religion.
Those things are much too important to display on a fading piece of material, a fad attached to my car or a disposable plastic container.
I don't think we should stop displaying our patriotism yet, after all the wounds slashed into Americans are still healing. Let's just get a new flag to do it.
Jennifer Pearson Bonnett is the Lodi News-Sentinel's assistant city editor and City Hall reporter. She can be reached at (209) 369-7035; at 125 N. Church St., or via e-mail.
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