A personal salute to Flag Day

By Tom Purcell, Special to the Katy Times
Posted 6/15/23

It’s long past time for me to put a flagpole in the center of my front yard—one that holds a large American flag that dances proudly in the summer breeze.

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A personal salute to Flag Day


It’s long past time for me to put a flagpole in the center of my front yard—one that holds a large American flag that dances proudly in the summer breeze.

We bought such a flagpole for my father on his 70th birthday, shortly after he and my mother moved into a new house with a stately front yard.

He was proud of his flag—with good reason.

He was born during the Great Depression. As a boy, he was immersed in our country’s great unified effort to defeat mighty foes during World War II.

He was drafted at the tail end of the Korean War and served for two years. When he returned home, America was an optimistic place to raise a family.

He and my mother would have six children. He would work very hard and watch his country, and his family, thrive and prosper beyond his wildest dreams.

Despite his modest Bell Telephone income, he was able to retire just shy of his 60th birthday.

He enjoyed retirement for 30 years—and enjoyed the flagpole we got him for 20 years—before God took him home last year.

Thanks to a uniquely blessed nation that offered unlimited opportunities for individuals to pursue life, liberty and happiness, my father was able to see his children become successful writers, artists, teachers and businesspeople.

Our country has never been perfect and our government requires constant monitoring, improvement and correction.

As we grow older and wiser we begin to understand how easy it is for the young to see only our country’s imperfections and not the many things it has got incredibly right.

The freedom to speak our minds openly is one huge thing we got right—despite recent examples of people admitting they are afraid to express what they think publicly for fear of public retribution.

The first amendment to our Constitution guarantees us the free exercise of religion, a free press, the right to peaceably assemble and express grievances to our government and petition for change—and prevents the government from abridging our right to free speech, even unpleasant speech.

Until 1989, for instance, 48 state governments, as well as the federal government, forbid the desecration or burning of the U.S. flag by protesters, reports Smithsonian Magazine.

These laws were overturned by the Supreme Court in Texas v. Johnson, in which the court agreed that Gregory Lee Johnson’s burning of the flag constituted “symbolic speech” protected under the First Amendment.

More from Smithsonian Magazine:

“If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable,” wrote Justice William Brennan in the majority opinion.

“The majority, which also included Justices Marshall, Blackmun, Kennedy and Scalia, found that the conviction was inconsistent with Johnson’s First Amendment right to verbal and nonverbal expression.”

A flourishing representative republic continually reexamines itself and corrects its imperfections, and on that score, our country has got more right than wrong.

That is why my father became prouder of his flag—and the great country it represents—with every passing year.

And that is why, this Flag Day, it’s time for me to place my own majestic symbol of America in the center of my stately front yard.

Purcell, creator of the infotainment site ThurbersTail.com, which features pet advice he’s learning from his beloved Labrador, Thurber, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Email him at Tom@TomPurcell.com.