Monday, May 31, 2010

Patriotic or Apathetic?

The other day I saw a photo of people at a parade watching the U.S. flag go by. Only one person was standing, an elderly man, no doubt a veteran, who had hoisted himself out of his wheelchair to show his respect. You might have seen that photo. I believe it was online.

For some reason that image has stuck with me. Actually, it kind of stuck in my craw because it seemed to represent a symptom of something that’s gone wrong with this country. Call it apathy or loss of respect or loss of patriotism, but it’s definitely something. I noticed it again as I drove through town. Only a few flags were being displayed. And no parade.

Parades used to be a big thing. Maybe in large cities they still are, but they’re disappearing in small ones. It could be a cost-cutting measure or it could be that symptom again, but whatever it is, I feel sorry for all the kids who are not getting to experience the excitement and energy of a parade. I have great memories from my childhood, standing with my parents and grandparents on the sidewalk, holding a little flag in my hand, hearing the stirring drumbeat as a band came up the street playing a Sousa March. When the U.S. flag appeared, any man wearing a hat immediately doffed it. All veterans saluted. Everyone else put their hands over their hearts. No one spoke.

I can remember blinking back tears, caught up in the emotion of the moment. It was great. Then there was the time I was actually in the parade, twirling a baton, wearing an Uncle Sam costume, complete with long gray beard and top hat. I believe the temperature set a record high that day. Not so great that year.

Have we lost that emotional connection to our flag? Is our respect for and pride in our country gone? I’d like to think I’m just missing it somehow. I’d like to think that parents nudge their children to stand up straight, place their hands over their hearts, and show respect when the flag passes by. I’d like to think the parents are setting good examples by doing the same.

Are you seeing this, too? Does your city or town hold parades? Do you think we’ve become unpatriotic? Apathetic? Disgusted, maybe?

Happy Memorial Day to you all, and especially to you veterans. Thank you for your belief in this country and for the sacrifices you've made for us. I salute you.