Park of Honor event salutes veterans, military members

Flags fly in the wind in Park Square during the opening ceremony of the Kiwanis Club’s Park of Honor in 2018.

RICHMOND — Everyone settles on a candidate for different reasons, and two recent letters-to-the-editor illuminated how far apart those reasons can be.

In the one, a Berkshire resident started out writing that he wasn’t voting for the president but for a laundry list of other things, which had led him to vote for the president and every other Republican on the ticket. He includes his Second Amendment rights, secure borders, law and order and the future of the country, among other things.

In the other letter, a retired Army sergeant says he’s chosen Joe Biden because he is voting against “hate and division, science deniers, white nationalists, climate deniers, liars … children in cages,” etc. Plus, he noted, a president who has taken little notice of the news that Russia was paying the Taliban a bounty for every American soldier killed.

Placed side by side, these two letters perfectly illustrate where we are — split in half on so many major issues that lots of people can’t even watch the TV news with their cousins, for fear a major argument will turn a special family meal into a grumpy, silent, indigestible occasion. These two views put a spotlight on the chasm.

For those of us who have been following this presidential campaign so long that it seems time for the seven-year locusts to come back, the lines are clear. I wouldn’t dream of trying to influence the conservative writer’s view, except for one thing, the paragraph that said, “I’m voting for the American flag that is disrespected by the Democratic Party.”

Have to call that one out, have to say that neither the Republicans, nor the libertarians, nor the Green Party own the flag. It belongs to all Americans — all. And the Dreamers, as well.

The famous photo of Marines planting the flag on Iwo Jima in World War II inspires most Americans. We get teary when a flag is meticulously folded and presented to a widow or widower at a funeral. We go quiet when we pass a flag at half-staff, perhaps wondering what we missed. We enjoy communities that line their streets with flags for the Fourth of July. And who could drive past Park Square jammed with flags without feeling a thrill of patriotism and a twinge of sadness?

Kneeling for the national anthem isn’t disrespect for the flag — it’s exercising rights guaranteed in the First Amendment; it’s people seeking some graphic and totally peaceful way to say that we have a long way to go to achieve justice for all.

Even burning the flag, an action I consider despicable, isn’t illegal. Look it up. Yes, we have a flag code, but it’s not a law. You’re not supposed to let the flag touch the ground; you’re not supposed to fly it in the dark; you’re not supposed to put a tattered one in the trash (OK to burn it). But you can’t be arrested for any of those things.

My Republican mother and her mother-in-law loved their American flags and pulled them out of storage every Fourth of July. Our son, from age 2 on, was so enamored of the American flag that we gave him a large one for his birthday when he was still a toddler. One flies in our backyard year-round. It’s a patriotic statement, and it looks grand when the wind comes up.

To dump all Democrats into a basket labeled “They disrespect the flag” qualifies as a seriously poor generalization in a world where we need to struggle against stereotypes that narrow our thinking.

Last week I voted against a lot of stuff and for a lot of stuff, believing that my little black ovals could spell life for our planet, could mean hope, justice and in peace. If you haven’t voted, there’s time. Do your stuff.

Ruth Bass is an award-winning journalist. Her website is ruthbass.com. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.