Over Memorial Day weekend, I received a phone message from a gentleman who is obviously a veteran of World War II. The message he left me was profound. Simple, yet profound. He said that he counted only eight American Flags posted in front of houses over several neighborhoods in southeast Carson City. His voice was filled with urgency. His allegiance pleaded for company. His purity needed no words to sound off the revelry of his pride.
Only eight flags. I live in Southeast Carson. Did my home have a flag waving out front? No. Guilty as charged.
Why didn't I have one? Why didn't so many homes here and elsewhere not have one? Is it allegiance gone sour? Not for me. I honestly did not think about it. Obviously, I wasn't alone.
Is it that the formal practices of God and country that once meant so much have now given way to the sprint-speed pace of everyday life that reeks of selfish shelter for our own personal time?
Self-interrogation scorched me. Had I taken my baseball cap off as the flag passed me during the Nevada Day parade? When I am at a business luncheon, and all stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, do the words really mean anything? Do the words of a prayer mean anything? Have the words of any reverential plight lost their placement in our lives? Are they all just words now? Just words that we recite like a memorized poem for an English literature exam?
Then I thought, does the society we live in navigate the drive of our allegiance? Does it take a son or daughter to be overseas in combat, or a father or grandfather killed at war to give us reason to raise the flag? Does it take a 9/11 for us to momentarily pull together in praise of our country?
Has it all become like resorting to the church and prayer in time of personal crisis and then, when all has turned to our favor, we leave the church and prayer shelved like unwanted gifts from a holiday long past?
I look forward to Halloween and Christmas. Love decorating the house, but I can't tell you the last time I said, "Can't wait 'til Memorial Day!"; or even, "Can't wait 'til Sunday Mass!"
Just like many people have their own way of worshipping the god of their choice, I guess others have their own way of pledging allegiance. That's not a crutch for weakened limbs. Certainly not an excuse. Just a thought. Ever since 9/11, I found myself writing "U.S.A." on every piece of mail correspondence I send out-personally and professionally. I guess that has been my own personal allegiance to our country. My textbook habits of practicing my religion have rotted over the years. Horribly. But yet I pray every day. Again, my own exercise of reverence in my own way.
Does the absence of the American Flag on the front porches of so many homes diagnose us as being unpatriotic? I hope not. No more than I would say that an atheist is a mean-spirited person.
Beliefs are meant to be personal, but hypocrisy shouldn't be the welcome neighbor that gets invited into your thoughts whenever convenient. I'm sure that vegetarians hold their reasons for not eating meat. But if it's because they disdain the killing of animals for human benefit, better make damn sure you're not wearing a leather coat or fur, and that the sofa and car seat you're sitting is made of cloth.
To the point, will I now be sure to post a flag in front of my house on Memorial Day. Probably not. If I did, it would be out of guilt, or even apprehension for what others may think. Those are NOT good reasons to publicly exhibit patriotism.
But there are times too that what we once practiced in school and with our parents, like posting the American Flag on Memorial Day or attending Mass every Sunday, do not disappear out of disrespect.
Sometimes what others see as regression or total abstinence are actually evolutions to self-felt developments at higher levels of truth and meaning.
• John DiMambro is publisher of of the Nevada Appeal. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org