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Our View: Give a flap, flap a flag: It's Flag Day

From the editorial: "(The holiday) has largely become forgotten, reflecting a troubling national decline in patriotism, unity, and reverence for our history and our shared struggle for freedom."

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Dave Granlund / Cagle Cartoons
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Old Glory still dances in the skies outside our restaurants, courthouses, city halls, and elsewhere. The symbol of patriotism continues to be hung in windows, affixed to poles that stand at attention from front porches, and waved from the clenched tiny fists of children at parades and similar events.

But Flag Day — which is today, by the way — for many of us, has largely become forgotten, reflecting a troubling national decline in patriotism, unity, and reverence for our history and our shared struggle for freedom.

"It's sad. Today, there is not the same love of country," Duluth Honor Guard Capt. John Marshall said in an interview with the News Tribune Opinion page on the occasion of Flag Day last year. "I've folded thousands of flags, literally thousands of flags. I've presented thousands of flags (at military funerals). And, you know, that symbol of ours is probably the most beautiful thing. ... I love that symbol. It represents so many things."

Its colors: red for the blood spilled for our country, white for purity and justice, and blue for our union created under the heavens, said Marshall. Other sources indicate the red is for hardiness and valor; white for purity and innocence; and blue for vigilance, perseverance, and justice. There's little disagreement that its 13 stripes are for the 13 original colonies and 50 stars for our 50 states.

It was on June 14, 1777, when the Second Continental Congress took a break from writing the Articles of Confederation to pass a resolution indicating a new U.S. flag would have those 13 stripes of red and white and 13 white stars on a blue field to represent a new constellation — our new nation. Prior to that, according to History.com, the different colonies fought under their own individual flags in the American Revolution.

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President Woodrow Wilson, in 1916, marked the anniversary of the Second Continental Congress' resolution by establishing June 14 as Flag Day. Its first celebration was led by a schoolteacher in Fredonia, Wisconsin, about 400 miles southeast of Duluth, from the tip of Lake Superior to the western shore of Lake Michigan. On June 14, 1885, that teacher, Bernard Cigrand, organized his students in our nation's first formal observance.

A congressman named Francis Hopkinson claimed to design the U.S. flag. But in 1870, William J. Canby said his grandmother, Betsy Ross, made the first one, a claim now disputed by historians and a lack of evidence. Ross was a Philadelphia seamstress who repaired uniforms and sewed tents during the Revolutionary War.

The "Stars and Stripes" is a popular name for the U.S. flag, though no one knows where the moniker originated. Francis Scott Key first called the flag the "Star-Spangled Banner'" in 1814 when he wrote the poem that became our national anthem. And William Driver, a sea captain from Salem, Massachusetts, nicknamed our flag "Old Glory" in 1824.

Old Glory doesn’t seem to mind that so few of us remember or commemorate Flag Day in any way. The best-recognized symbol of our nation and of the freedoms we enjoy and too often take for granted just keeps waving proudly.

How proudly depends on us. There are rules when it comes to displaying and treating the flag, rules that demand to be respectfully followed, rules about hoisting briskly and lowering ceremoniously, about not displaying during inclement weather or at night, about keeping it on the marching right when in procession, about placing the union at the peak when displaying from a staff, about hoisting to the peak for an instant before lowering when displaying it at half-staff, about not wearing the flag as clothing, and more.

These rules — and many others — are detailed at military.com and other online sources. A brochure produced and distributed by the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State is available on request by calling the office at 651-201-1324 or by sending an email to secretary.state@state.mn.us.

It’s not too late to give a flap for Flag Day. There’s certainly good reason to respectfully and appropriately display a flag, whether it’s worn on a lapel, held by hand, or flown from a porch. We can at least take a moment to consider what it symbolizes and represents — and to remember that it's Flag Day.

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DNT

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