I know it’s part of an American Flag’s job to help the nation mourn.
But already? Even before the folds from my months in a box have had time to disappear?
I was the first thing you saw on Friday, when you arrived at the brand new baseball field in a small Iowa town which got its name from America’s beginning. Just a few days earlier, they had raised me to the top of my pole as they dedicated the new field. I barely had the chance to celebrate the Fourth of July before they came to lower me to the position of mourning.
You knew when you saw me that I represented our country’s mourning for the five officers who died July 8, in Dallas:
Patrick Zamarripa, 32, a Navy veteran;
Brent Thompson, 43 a Marine veteran and DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) officer;
Michael Smith, 55, was a veteran officer among the most respected by his peers;
Michael Krol, 40, a former jailer; and,
Lorne Ahrens, 48, who had served the Dallas PD for 14 years.
That position of mourning is nothing new for me and my fellow flags.
The first American flag that was lowered in mourning had 15 stars; it honored George Washington after his death in 1799.
Americans have seen me in that sad status many times since then. I represented the mourning of deaths of presidents; I helped you grieve after 9/11. In the past few years, my lowered height represented the nation’s pain following terrorist attacks such as the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013 and the San Bernardino mass shooting in December of 2015.
For most of you, times like these are unfortunately familiar. Most of the other flags around our vast nation have dipped in mourning many times.
Yet, for me, this weekend has been a first.
I have something to ask of you: Every time you see me or any other flag at half-staff, remember: Like me, many young children have grown old enough to understand what they hear from the TV, and from their parents. They are just starting to come to terms with the sometimes-dark side of life as an American. In addition to mourning, I represent questions you have heard, or will soon hear, from those who are barely old enough to start to understand:
I have one more request: Let every one of these worst times bring out the best in you. Listen. Love. Pray. Learn. Believe. Stand up for what you believe but spend more time asking than declaring. Look for leaders – and writers – from among you who will do the same.
And then maybe, just maybe: If all 323,976, 981 of you Americans will do that, it might be longer before you see me mourning with you again.