The American Flag, one of the most recognizable symbols of the United States of America. It’s red, white and blue stripes are recognizable the world around. Somehow it is a reassuring sight when traveling our roads to see a large flag fully outstretched from the wind that blows over the land.

A young man fifteen years old from a local community has undertaken to building a flag retirement site near the Veteran’s Memorial. Once completed it will earn him his Eagle Merit Badge in Boys Scouts of America.

Visiting with him, his patriotism put me to shame, got me wondering about the flag. He said it is considered a living thing, must be treated with respect and honor for it represents liberty and freedom.      

We celebrate Flag Day on June 14 because of one man, Bernard J.Cigrand. At age nineteen, he was a school teacher in 1885. He placed a flag in an inkwell before giving his students the assignment of writing what the flag meant to them. Throughout his life he promoted the idea of Flag Day.

If I had been a student in his class, what would have been written on my paper?

We know its fifty stars represent unity and the thirteen stripes the thirteen original colonies. The stars represent the unity of the states. Red stripes, valor and bravery, white stripes are a symbol of purity and innocence and blue signify vigilance, perseverance and justice.

Beyond that, how does one put down the emotion that swells up when the four men and women dressed in uniform carry the flags before the start of a parade? We stand respectfully, quietly for the somber, thoughtful expressions on their faces seem to probe our hearts asking, do you know what this flag represents?

Surely I would write down freedom, but what would that mean? Unless I think it through it is just a word.

Freedom isn’t doing whatever I want; otherwise there is no reason for stopping a fox in a hen house. He is simply doing what he wants. It has to be be something more. Pretty soon we would have a nation of people doing what is right in their own eyes; not a pretty picture.

Freedom has to mean something, because why would the writers of the Declaration of Independence have this sentence just above their signatures: And for the support of the Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

They did. It cost these men much to sign a document, that is still a powerful document today. It’s worth rereading.

For these men set up a government like no other, a democracy in a republic. By definition a republic is a state in which the exercise of the sovereign power elected by the people—remember consent of the governed from the Declaration of Independence. This type of government is designed to maximize individual freedom and responsibility. Government’s role was to defend and protect our liberties.

In America, there were no classes of people, we were all equal. There were no barriers or special privileges, no one was exempt from the law. The money earned was its citizens to spend as they pleased, live lavishly or frugal, saving for a rainy day.  Private ownership was respected as well as privacy.

At the one graduation we were invited to this year, it was my privilege to converse with another guest  who gave me an interesting Ukrainian history lesson. On his  recent visit to his ancestral land, Czechoslovakia, his relatives stressed to him, “You Americans, you forget why your ancestors came to America. You treat liberty too lightly”.


Essays from My Farm House Kitchen | Renae B. Vander Schaaf

Renae B. Vander Schaaf, freelance writer, lives on a real working farm in northwest Iowa.

To Contact Renae B. Vander Schaaf, please email her at [email protected]