July 2, 2021

It’s a Grand Old Flag!

Deep down, we all — including, I suspect, Macy Gray and Gwen Berry — know that it is the best nation on this planet, by far.

This Sunday, July 4th, we celebrate America’s birthday.

Op-ed writers learn to roll with the punches; we expect — and respect — disagreement. But there are a few things for which I have near-zero tolerance. One is public disrespect for our American flag and national anthem. It’s my no-fly zone.

On that score, R&B singer/songwriter Macy Grey hit the jackpot a few weeks ago with her widely circulated editorial asserting that our American flag is “tattered and divisive” and that it’s high time we replace it with a new flag that truly “represents all of us.”

Like most in my generation, I grew up revering our flag. We recited the Pledge of Allegiance every morning in school, and we meant it. July 4th was pure unrestrained celebration. Protest was unheard of.

Exactly 60 years last Saturday, our entering U.S. Naval Academy class of 1965 stood before the flag for our oath of office, promising to protect and defend the nation. We all served under that flag. Some later lost their lives doing so and came home in a plain coffin covered by that flag.

Macy Gray said that she was surprised at the furor stirred up by her proposal to change our flag — she thought it was “no big deal.” Ms. Gray, it’s a huge deal.

In fairness, I judged her too hastily and too harshly. I’m not up on my R&B music — I’d never heard of Macy Gray until two weeks ago. My first reaction was to dismiss her flag proposal as just another attempt by a fading celebrity to snag some public attention.

But her subsequent interviews and explanations reveal a much broader and more troubling context. She is articulate, she’d clearly put a lot of thought into her editorial position, and — most importantly — she really believes it. So I wonder how many Americans think that way too.

Macy Gray professes to be a patriotic American. She explains that January 6 was her personal turning point — when she saw “insurrectionists,” some carrying American flags, storming the Capitol, the flag became for her a symbol of racist, anti-American upheaval.

Clearly, she has swallowed — hook, line, and sinker — the popular narratives that our nation is systemically racist, and that January 6 was in fact an attempt by white supremacists to overthrow the United States government and to end democracy as we know it.

The problem, of course, it that those narratives are demonstrably false.

Public disrespect for our flag and anthem didn’t start with Macy Gray and surely won’t end there. In 2019, Colin Kaepernick, having already inspired professional athletes to refuse to stand for the national anthem, declared a new Nike shoe design featuring the Betsy Ross flag to be racist. Worse, Nike acquiesced and pulled the entire line from store shelves.

And at last week’s Olympic trials, American athlete Gwen Berry, on the stand receiving her award for third-place finish in the hammer throw competition (and earning a place on the U.S. Olympic team), reacted to the national anthem by turning away, hand on hip, and draping her activist T-shirt over her head — conveying visible disgust for the nation she will represent on the world stage next month.

Like Macy Gray, I’ve no doubt Gwen Berry is sincere in her views. That doesn’t matter. Her behavior is disgraceful. Public disrespect for our American symbols is a creeping disease and it’s gaining traction. Why the U.S. Olympic Committee finds it tolerable is beyond me.

And if we’re serious about understanding the ugly divisions in our country, consider the narratives pushed constantly by the left — systemic racism, white supremacy, insurrection, Critical Race Theory, rampant police brutality, the 1619 myth — story lines that paint a grossly distorted picture of our nation and that pit one group of Americans against the other.

America, we’ve got work to do to set the record straight.

In the meantime, this I know: The single most important thing that has happened in my lifetime was 77 years ago when I was born an American citizen — one of the incredibly lucky 5% of the world’s population. This country has given me and my family a life that is truly blessed in every respect.

No one is suggesting that our country is perfect. But deep down, we all — including, I suspect, Macy Gray and Gwen Berry — know that it is the best nation on this planet, by far. I for one will go to my grave supporting it, no matter what.

Happy Birthday, America!

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