Our opinion: Our flag, ourselves

Friday is Flag Day in America.

No one gets the day off work. Banks are open, and there has never been a suggestion that the day be moved to a Monday to make a convenient long weekend.

Except for the Loyal Order of Elks, the Boy Scouts, some veterans organizations and a few other groups, which have taken it under their wings for ceremony, it might be thought of as America’s forgotten holiday.

And that’s too bad.

Our nation’s cloth emblem has undergone many designs and manifestations over its long and interesting history. It has withstood nearly every indignity one might imagine. It has been burned and shot to pieces and trampled on the field of battle.

And yet, it survives.

An authentically woven facsimile of one in particular will be produced by volunteers in York, Pa., this summer in anticipation of the bicentennial observance next September 14 of a battle fought in Baltimore Harbor. The orginal Star-Spangled Banner hangs in the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington, where its tattered and battle-scarred remains are preserved for posterity.

Those 15 “bright stars” and 15 “broad stripes” are evidence of a nation that was continuing to define its emblem and itself less than 40 years after declaring itself an independent nation.

Some believe that its massive size was intended to taunt the British gunners who did their best to destroy it and Fort McHenry; others, that it was meant to be seen at a far distance.

Whatever the intention, the Star-Spangled Banner and the poem it inspired became emblematic for the tenacity of a young nation and the principles for which that nation has stood for more than two centuries.

At various times politicians have tried to capitalize on our reverence for the flag by proposing laws to protect it from those who would abuse it. Each time those efforts have failed because cooler heads have understood that such laws would only weaken our symbol. It needs no legal protection because it is more than just cloth.

We salute it and protect it individually, not because we have to, but because we are compelled to by our love of the country it symbolizes.