NEWCORN: Lack of flag displays blights Modesto on Fourth

July 10, 2013 

Back on Memorial Day, as I took my daily walk, I was surprised and disappointed by the lack of American flags put out to honor our military service people. I passed more than 500 homes and counted 39 flags — just 8 percent. Come July 4, there were more than double the number of flags. Yet it was still a paltry 14 percent of homes displaying the flag. It gave me the overall of impression of what I would call patchwork patriotism.

Many Americans seem quick to screech whenever they feel their individual or constitutional toes being stepped upon, often saying, "It's unpatriotic."

Whether it's gun rights, gay rights, tax rights, labor rights — the list is endless — the moment people feel their personal rights as U.S. citizens are being jeopardized or inconvenienced, the respond with a volley of digital and personal protests, which is also a right for an American.

Yet when it comes to demonstrating outbound patriotism, which has no material or personal benefit to the individual, in the form of hoisting the flag in honor of our veterans, our military or our country, many people apparently can't be bothered. Nearly 7,000 service personnel have died in the oft-ignored Iraq and Afghanistan wars, yet people can't make the effort to display the flag in honor of their service?

Consider the recent Bee article by Colleen Bare about the exuberant local July 4 celebrations more than a century ago. There was an almost pathological pride about being an American and the need to show the pride to all. Or the recent story about the Gettysburg soldiers, and how their perception of military service was fueled by a sense of valor, sacrifice and pride in country. We certainly don't seem to care to show that same pride of country on holidays where we should.

I find myself wondering if this patchwork patriotism is partly the result of being numb to war and death. We don't truly understand war in this country. It's been 150 years since we had war on our soil. So the concept of sacrifice and commitment is many generations removed, with the exception of those families and friends who have suffered the loss of kin who gave their all to protect the freedoms we feel entitled to and take so casually.

Webster's defines being patriotic as one who is "devoted to the welfare of their country." Note the outbound aspect of this definition. As in, not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. Our military service men and women practice this in the highest form.

So the next time Veterans Day, July 4 and Memorial Day roll around, take a moment from your barbecues, fireworks and shopping trips to really think upon the reasons behind these holidays. Each one has military service at the root. And then show yourself as truly patriotic by taking a moment to hang up some form of the American flag.

After all, if you're proud to be an American, shouldn't you make an effort to show it?

Newcorn is a marketing consultant, author and freelance writer. Send comments or questions to columns@modbee.com.

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