Thursday, July 13, 2006

Rochelle Riley: Lower all flags until war is over

Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley had this to say in yesterday's paper:

"Gov. Jennifer Granholm ordered the flags lowered 72 times for soldiers between December 2003 and last week, doing what governors in at least a dozen states do.

"She better keep on doing it, because we've reached a place in America where some of our soldiers are losing hope and sanity, some of their families back home are losing hope and faith, and those who should be honoring the dead are losing their minds -- counting how many times we lower the flag in memory of those who do the jobs that keep us free."

The media has done a great job telling us how miserable the war in Iraq is going and criticizing our military for the Where's-Waldo search for Osama bin Laden. The media paints a picture of demoralized troops without goals or confidence skulking through a foreign landscape with ungrateful citizens.

Against that backdrop it's refreshing to hear directly from soldiers about appreciative Iraqi citizens that are glad for our troops' sacrifice and commitment, and thankful for the job they're doing building them a freer Iraq.

When those soldiers look back at the US they won't see our half-mast flags because apologists can't stand proudly for America. Instead of lowering our flags until the finest soldiers on the planet come home we should lift our flags to their highest points so our honor for them will be the first thing they see break the horizon.

Mark Twain wrote, "Tis a fine thing to fight for one's own freedom; tis a far sight finer to fight for another man's."

We should not be jealous of our freedom nor believe we are uniquely deserved of it. What kind of arrogance is it that believes one people are more deserving of freedom than another? No finer a goal has been fought for since America's Civil War when a great and terrible price was paid to ransom a liberty not easily purchased.

It's less a measure of patriotism than a measure of gratitude. Who are we to suspect another nation's degree of thankfulness when we demonstrate so little ourselves?

Keep your flag at full-mast, and let everyone see it from as far away as possible. Iraq and Afghanistan are a long way away.


  1. I think it is fairly obvious that the Governor is lowering the flag out of respect for the families and soldiers you discuss here. If Afganistan and Iraq are as "far away" as you say, they can't see the flag whether its lowered to honor our citizens or whether its at full mast because we'd rather be "strong" than "wrong." Who's politicizing this issue really?

  2. "Who's politicizing this issue really?"

    Excellent question. I suspect the Governor is lowering the flag out of sympathy for the families, but it doesn't show respect to the families or for what a life was sacrificed for. Flying flags at half-mast has become an expression of dissatisfaction with the President and the war in Iraq, and the governor has other ways to express that dissatisfaction directly to the president than anything that may demoralize the still-living soldiers by insinuating, "We'll lower the flag when you come home in a body bag, too."

    If it were tradition to lower flags for dead soldiers the US flag would have been at half-mast for the entirety of Vietnam, Korea, WWII, WWI, and would pop up-and-down as troops are killed on-base, during training, transit, or even on leave on foreign soil. Our flags are lowered so often passers-by don't even know why to the point half-mast has lost its meaning.

    Celebrating or remembering a sacrifice as great as a soldiers life shouldn't including take a symbol of what they fought for and making less, or lowering it. Remembrances should be additive, not diminutive. A monument is made larger to memorialize the dead, not smaller.

    Imagine if for every Michigan soldier lost in Iraq or Afghanistan we made our capital's flag pole higher to demonstrate the sacrifice our state's citizens made freeing Iraq and defending our country; it would show respect, gratitude, and be a fitting remembrance. Instead, our sympathies dig holes to bury the symbols of the ideals they died defending and securing for others.

    I guess on the whole, I find the half-mast memorials shallow and more an expression of politics than sympathies.

  3. "Remembrances should be additive, not diminutive."

    I don't know how platitudes are born, but this statement should be one. Platitudes express profound wisdom as succinctly as possible, and there are volumes contained in this simple sentence.

    "I guess on the whole, I find the half-mast memorials shallow ..."

    A wise man once said, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." I'm convinced that lowering the flag often falls into this category. I was raised to think that lowering the flag was a great honor, ("even the flag bows in honor of the dead") but after what you've said, I can see that it can potentially say just the opposite.

    At one time, patriotism was taught in schools ... maybe we need to spend a bit more time on it these days.

  4. "I guess on the whole, I find the half-mast memorials shallow and more an expression of politics than sympathies."

    I see your point, but I agree with the Governor on this one. It seems most people in MI do as well, that must be why DeVos reversed his position so quickly after opposing the flag lowering.

    I can see hoe certain people may try to use this as a political tool, but I don't think that is the case here. It is a small gesture to honor the sacrifice of Michiganders who have fallen to protect us all. It shouldn't be looked at as a statement about the Administration. It shouldn't go any further than the honoring of that one soldier.

  5. I agree with Tom. If we had lowered the flag to halfmast for every soldier killed in WWII, the flag would never have flown full-mast. Twice as many Americans were killed in one or two days of battle in WWII as have lost their lives defending us in Iraq the last four years. Lowering the flags for each individual soldier is not customary or historical. It's little Jenny Granholm's private one-woman war protest. Honor those who fought for our flag by flying it full-mast!