By Deborah Epperson
I have a large American flag mounted on the southern deck of my house. I enjoy watching it wave in the wind, but sometimes the wind whips the flag up and it gets wrapped around the pole.
In the past, I’d run outside, take down the flag, and unknot it so it could once more fly free in the wind. An hour later, the scene would repeat itself. Some days, I’d make five or six trips outside to untangle the flag.
A few years ago, I was in a car accident and ended up with a broken ankle. The first month I was home, I was in a wheelchair, and that’s when I noticed a funny thing about Old Glory. The flag got tangled up as usual, but because of my broken ankle, I couldn’t go untangle it. Later that day, I noticed the flag flying free again. I watched the flag closely over the next month. Some days, it would get so wrapped around the pole that I thought it would never get untangled by itself, but it did. Sometimes, the flag would stay tangled up for days at a time, but eventually, it would work its way free and fly high and proud once more.
The actions of the flag serve as a perfect metaphor for what historically goes on in a democratic republic like ours. At times, everything seems tangled up. Fear whips us into such a frenzied state that we’re willing to trade constitutional rights for an elusive promise of safety. We’re told that we are a country split in half. Blue against Red. Democrat verses Republican. Pro Choice verses Pro Life. Conservatives against the liberals. Hawks against Doves. The list goes on and on. Sometimes we wonder if such a snarled web can ever be untangled.
In the 50’s, we got twisted up in McCarthyism and the Cold War. In the 60’s, Americans were divided over segregation and civil rights. In the 70’s, we struggled with Vietnam, Watergate, and the resignation of a President. As a country, we were as tousled as that flag, and at the time there seemed no way to get beyond the forces that divided us.
Eventually, we have always discovered a way to untangle ourselves, to make peace with our neighbor, and to fly proud and free again just like Old Glory. Throughout our history, Americans have always pushed through the fear to come back to our roots and to the basic principles of individual freedoms and justice for all. After watching that flag and reviewing our nation’s history, I’m sure in time we’ll do it again.