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    Photo courtesy Ed Barnes

Which flag will I fly?

In these past few months we’ve all seen an array of colorful flags, some of them flying from a pole as we’re accustomed to seeing, while others are relegated to automotive accessories whipping in the wind within a cloud of diesel smoke. Some of these flags have been resurrected from the history books, and I wonder just how versed in history those who fly these banners are.

There’s the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag, or The Gadsden Flag, flown in the Revolutionary War by folks who wished to free themselves from the influence of a single man wearing a golden crown and replace him with their own representatives. They established the First Continental Congress in 1774.

There’s the “Come and Take It” flag of the Texas Revolution that was flown by American colonists in Gonzales in defiance of old Santa Anna, seeking to free themselves from authoritarian rule and establish a representative government. The first Congress of Republic of Texas was established a year later in 1836.

There’s the “Stars and Bars,” a really handsome banner that was featured in many Civil War movies of my youth and one cheesy TV comedy. The reality is it was carried into battle by those who took up arms against their own country and by officers who broke their oath to the constitution in defense of an indefensible institution.

Then there’s that familiar flag that was an art project for me as a school child. Getting those 13 stripes straight and the 50 little stars in the square in the corner was a challenge. The Texas flag was a bit easier.

Among these flags is a new phenomenon: a variety of designs that do not represent a country or a region. Nor do they represent a deity, a constitution or declaration, or some high-minded set of principles. No, these flags honor a single man rumored to own a golden throne (toilet).

Though I’m sure throughout history there have been flags for monarchs and dictators and the like, it seems out of place in the good old USA that there’s a flag for a reality TV personality who rose to the presidency via the electoral college, but never seemed to be able to muster the support of a majority of Americans.

Did other Presidents have their own flags? Maybe so.

My father wasn’t a flag-waving patriot. He never waxed on about how great this country was or aligned himself with any rigid political ideology. He had voted for both Republicans and Democrats.

When I was growing up, the flag was put out on Memorial Day or July 4th without much fanfare. Dad had spent his 19th and 20th year as a fighter pilot in the Pacific fighting the military forces of the Emperor of Japan.

At the time he was one of the youngest pilots in that theater of war. He was called back to service during the Korean Conflict to train pilots. Later, he flew 81 missions in Vietnam.

Although he wasn’t necessarily a flag waver, one incident from my early childhood comes to mind. I was walking with my dad on a sidewalk on base one evening when over the loudspeaker Taps was played as the flag was lowered.

I was startled as he grabbed my arm and brought me to a sudden stop. I looked over to see him stand in a stiff military brace and raise his hand in salute. When Taps ended, we went on our way as if nothing had happened.

As my dad aged and became frail and suffered dementia, he inexplicitly began putting his flag out almost daily.

This January 6th would have been his 97th birthday. I’m certain that if dad had been on the steps of our capital that day, he would have stood with those officers defending that icon of our democracy against a mob who would later go home to their comfortable houses, televisions, fully stocked refrigerators and those big expensive trucks adorned with those colorful flags.

Thank you, Dad, for showing me what true patriotism looks and acts like. Which flag will I fly?

I’ll fly my father’s flag.

Ed Barnes