Megan West is Media Director for My Faith Votes, a nonpartisan movement that motivates, equips and activates Christians in America to vote in every election, transforming our communities and influencing our nation with biblical truth.
It’s one of my favorite times of the year — parades, picnics, fireworks and all things red, white and blue to mark America’s birthday. Growing up in a farming community in the Midwest, summertime meant plenty of hometown parades to celebrate our American pride and values. As a child, I loved all the sights and sounds. As I got older, I was honored to be a member of our high school marching band, turning my observation of the procession of people, floats, firetrucks and flinging candy to full participation in the all-American tradition.
While I still love a good parade, something has been bothering me as the years go on. In fact, it’s really disheartening.
Each parade usually begins with the solemn presentation of the American flag leading the cavalcade of parade entries, often times carried by police or veterans’ organizations. As a mom, I instruct my young children to stand up, cover their hearts with their right hand and remove their hats. I always feel a rushing wave of patriotism as I watch the flag pass. So many memories are conjured every time I see that red, white, and blue symbol of American freedom.
But as I look around at my fellow parade-goers, they are mostly seated, ignoring the flag, wearing hats or seem uncomfortable or bothered by honoring the flag by simply standing. It’s hard to determine if they don’t care about the symbolism or they just don’t know how to act with respect.
Ask any serviceman or servicewoman why it’s important to stand at the passing of the American flag and I’m sure they’ll give you a number of good reasons. First and foremost, for hundreds of years, proud Americans have been fighting to give us the freedom to fly our flag.
Standing for the flag is not about thoughtless or misguided patriotism. It is a symbol of all of the hopeful things America stands for. It is symbolic of freedoms that many people in our world covet, despite our country’s spiritual problems and political divides. By standing for the flag, I honor my country and those who serve it in so many ways. Standing for the flag is not a political expression of support for a particular political party or an expression of jingoism. Rather, it is a deep acknowledgment of my privileged existence as an American in the land of the free.
Standing for the flag shows I still believe in America and her possibilities.