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Guest Column

The Flag deserves respect, offers hope


Despite those who are dissing our country’s National Anthem, patriotism is alive and well in the big city. 

Just ask the jail trustee who gave me his two cents – and a flag – during the American Flag Company’s travails down Fort Worth’s main streets recently. 

Our crew – me, my nephew Mike and stalwart citizen “Goob” – spent several hours downtown putting flags up in recognition of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon. Usually it’s a rather routine event – highlighted by sweaty men placing eight-foot flags in sidewalk holes while dodging absent-minded motorists. Nobody seems to notice.

But this year was different. 

Person after person – 15 at last count – took time out of their day to remark about the famous red, white, and blue. 

One man asked what we were doing – and it took Mike several answers to remind him of that fateful day 22 years ago. How people forget!

A woman asked for a flag. Others honked their horns and yelled things like “That’s cool!” or “Go America!”

Two gents of “leisure” didn’t understand the concept of “9/11.” They asked about “7-11” and “Channel 11.” We gave up explaining. 

The most impactful dialogue involved a trustee on the porch of the Tarrant County jail. He saw what we were doing and asked if we wanted “another one.” That meant a flag we had “lost” possibly two years ago during a downtown flag install. Like a kid at Christmas, he eagerly handed us the lost symbol. He said it “made him feel good” to see it fly – and needed it to be installed that day. That made me feel good. 

And it got me to thinking. 

In the eyes of many, the flag is still a symbol of something good and honorable. 

Our country’s embattled National Anthem is no different. 

I’ve tried to put myself in the shoes of anthem author Francis Scott Key back in 1814. Things weren’t looking good. We were at war with the British and our fledgling army wasn’t doing so well. The British army even torched much of the Capitol, sending our president and his furniture into hiding. 

Here Key was, standing aboard a British warship – in a prisoner exchange situation, mind you. Things must have felt bleak as he witnessed, first hand, the shelling of Fort McHenry in the Baltimore harbor. 

Yet the flag – torn and riddled with cannon shot — continued to wave – defiantly, desperately – despite the odds against it. The words “our flag was still there,” were evidence of Key’s surprise the next morning to see the fort – and flag – still there. 

The final sentence of the anthem – “O’re the land of the free and the home of the brave” – probably summed up Key’s pride for his young country. Somehow, some way, we survived.

It’s not unlike things today.

We’ve got plenty of problems – health care, poverty, political backbiting – a general lack of respect. It all feels bleak at times.

We have the right to protest – to question our nation’s priorities, it’s judgements. Work for solutions. Bring awareness.

But not standing for our Anthem in a sign of protest – as once prescribed by former professional football player Colin Kaepernick – isn’t the answer. Standing together – hand over heart and with respect for all – gives us the best chance for a better day. 

It’s about overcoming obstacles, standing tall, standing together – “through the perilous fight.”

The jail trustee seemed to know that. 

I made sure I put that flag deep into its new hole – so deep that no wind could wrench it free. I wanted that trustee to see it, flying, as much as possible during his infrequent breaks outside. 

Maybe, like Key, it gave him hope. And hope is never a bad thing.

Edwin Newton is a former local newspaper editor and longtime columnist who lives in Parker County with his daughter, four dogs, and two cats.


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