Article Overview:   America's Star Spangled Banner Flag is undergoing surgery from years of wounds.  But what is the greatest wound any flag can suffer?  Isn't it disrespect, dishonor?   How can we all honor what a flag stands for?  Perhaps by looking at it as the Flag of Vigilance, and saluting it for our Children's Children's Children.


Friday--July 4, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 660
America's Fading Flag Of Spangled Vigilance
Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

  GROUND ZER0, New York, N.Y.--July 4, 2003--  A hundred and ninety years ago a 30 x 42 foot flag flew with 15 26-inch stars and 15 red and white stripes over Ft. McHenry in Baltimore, Md.  It inspired Francis Scott Key to write what has become our national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner, as the British retreated in 1814 to mark the end of the War of 1812.

Fifteen stars and fifteen stripes represent a history of standing up for America not ripping it apart

    Today, however, that fragile ghost of a flag is in cardiac arrest, struggling for life at the Smithsonian Institution.  The world's best "flag surgeons," surgically weave the threads of life back into the battle-worn symbol of America's struggle to remain independent from the Beast of Terror.  Their goal:  to put "spangles" back in American Vigilance.
     Prior to the attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the ill-fated crash of Flight 93 that was headed for the White House on September 11, 2001, the only other foreign invasion upon American soil was the War of 1812.
     During that conflict, the British sought to take back the colony that revolted against the tyranny and oppression of monarchial leadership.   The great symbol of their failure was the giant flag flying over Ft. McHenry, shouting triumphantly to the world that Vigilance triumphed over Terrorism.
     Ironically, the British war ships sailed into Baltimore and set off alarms within the city on Sunday, September 11, 1814.   Americans sank ships in the harbor to keep the invading British from landing, thwarting their planned invasion.
     Bombarding Ft. Henry, the British thought they had silenced the guns there until three days later the giant flag we now call the Star Spangled Banner Flag was raised, a symbol to all that Ft. Henry was still in tact.

Frances Scott Key seeing the Flag still flying above Fort McHenry was inspired to write the words to the Star Spangled Banner

     Francis Scott Key, aboard a truce ship seeking the release of an American prisoner from the British, saw the giant flag and drafted a poem that was turned into song and, in 1931 was proclaimed by an Act of Congress our national anthem.
    The "Star Spangled Flag," the icon of America's first great battle with the "outside world," cost $405.90 for the 400 yards of material and labor it took to manufacture it back in 1813.  The flag was so large its final sewing was done on a brewery floor.   In economic contrast, today's renovation and preservation of the flag is budgeted for over $80 million.
      Scarred and battered by time as well as carrying the wound of a rip in its field of 15 two-foot stars from a canon attack on Ft. Henry, the flag's fabric over the past 19 decades has weakened to a critical state.    The repair work is slow and dangerous.  The material has thinned due to light and the complex chemicals in the air that erode its fabric's strength.
      Currently 30 x 32 feet in size, the flag was cut when lowered in 1814 by citizens who wanted to keep a piece of it as a souvenir of its historic importance.

Amelia Fowler fixing the flag in 1914

     Its maker was not the famous Betty Ross, but a woman named Mary Pickersgill and her daughter who labored to piece the English bunting into 15 broad stripes and stars that inspired Francis Scott Key to write his tribute.   The flag is rare because it is one of the few that carries 15 stars and stripes.  
      In 1818 Congress enacted a law to limit the stripes of the flag to thirteen, and including a new star for each new state.   All new flags representing new states would be unfurled on the Fourth of July.
      Today, July 4, 2003, marks a celebration of the Battle of the Beast of Terror.
      Commonly, we call this "Independence Day."   Truly, it is far more than that.   It is Vigilance Day.
      Independence suggests were are free from something.  It's opposite is Dependence.
      America has never been "free" of the dangers of the Beast of Terror neither here nor abroad.
      Unlike other nations in the world, America has evolved into a Sentinel of Vigilance rather than a conquering nation seeking to build an empire from its might.
      From Rome forward, the empire-building nature of nations included conquering the land and people, sweeping them under their rule and protection and forcing them to pay tribute.   
      America has never been "independent" from the role of protecting "liberty," neither within its own borders nor abroad.
      It has been, since its inception, a Vigilance Warrior, constantly attacking the Beast of Terror where ever he or she appears.
      One of the most bloody of wars against the Beast of Terror was fought on our own soil during the Civil War.   Hundreds of thousands of Americans died to remove the tyranny of slavery, and to set America on a road toward equal rights for all citizens, exampled by recent Supreme Court decisions that sweep over race, color, creed and sexual preference.

 The Liberty Bell signaled the dawn of the Birth of Vigilance on July 4, 1776

     Not everyone in America has agreed with the Principles of Vigilance this country embossed upon its soul back on July 4, 1776 when the Liberty Bell rang, signaling the dawn of the Birth of Vigilance.
     America has battled from within, clashing between liberal and conservative poles, evolving into a nation that examples the Principles of Democracy within its own borders, and thus has the right to carry those principles to other lands where tyranny and oppression rule.
      Not all of America's attempts to secure democracy in a world of oppression and tyranny have been successful.   The failure to win the Vietnam War, for example, might have blemished the political agendas of those who ruled during that era and fractured the nation's populace into pro- and con- camps, but the ideal of Vigilance--to free others from tyranny--has survived.
      Both Gulf Wars, the first to stop the invasion of a helpless country by a tyrant, and the second to stop the threat of Terrorism from spreading while liberating a nation ruled by oppression, symbolize that America's struggles to fight the Beast of Terror are not over.
      It wasn't over in World War I or World War II or during the Korean Conflict.   
      America has never been "independent" from tyranny.
      Part of the character of Americans is to not turn their backs to the troubles of the world as did  France and Germany, two of our greatest allies whom we helped free from the grips of Hitler's tyranny.
      The recent decision to support Liberia, West Africa, in its battle with both civil and foreign strife, suggests once more that America is not "independent" of the world's threats.
      North Korea's Kim Jong Il is not independent to build nuclear weapons.  Iran is not independent to threaten the Middle East.
       Critics of American policy are quick to question our right or authority to intervene in the affairs of other nations.   The United Nations, during the recent controversy about supporting the U.S.-British invasion of Iraq, refused to participate.
       Vigilance is about the Courage to act in the face of Fear, the Conviction to stand up to the Intimidation of another or others, and the guiding of Right Actions that benefit the Children's Children's Children rather than succumb to the bile of Complacency.

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in Maryland

       America has, historically, flown the Flag of Vigilance over the Fear, Intimidation and Complacency that other nations throughout the world have chosen.    No other body of citizens in the world has ever offered their lives so freely to sustain Liberty than Americans.
        This is not an act of "independence" but an act of Vigilance.
        When I went to Vietnam, I went with the belief I was going to help "free" people from the bonds and manacles of tyranny.  I was fortunate to have witnessed the first free election in that country's history.  I watched villagers pour out of the jungles despite the threats of the North Vietnamese that they would be killed if they cast their Vigilance Votes.
        Part of the people's Courage, Conviction and Right Action was based on American troops set up around the voting polls to protect the villagers from attack as they voted.   I often think of a fellow Marine who died in my arms that day.  He gave his life so others could vote their "independence."
        Vigilance won the war in Vietnam, even though politically we were unsuccessful in casting out the tyranny of the land.   I often get chills up my spine when I see a Vietnamese elected to high political office here in the United States.  It is a reminder to me that those who escaped their country's oppression found here, on our soil, that which we sought to help them establish in their homeland.

The Flag guarantees the Right to Dissent

       When Europe's leading nations turned their backs on support for the U.S., and when American protestors likened President Bush to Adolph Hitler for invading Iraq, and claimed the war was about American capitalism and empire building, I squirmed in my skin.    It seemed so hard to restrain my anger and disappointment in those who use the Right of Dissent as an excuse for the denigration of democracy, with its singular purpose to destroy the edifices of Liberty by accusing them as being rotten.
        Vigilance, however, always comes to my rescue for it means I must often have the Courage to not deny the most vile and bilious protestors:  the ones who throw dung at the American Flag and defecate upon the symbol as though it were a Swastika, and allow that person the right to express the horror of insolence against all the legacies of Freedom without seeking retaliation for such disrespect, for such dishonor to all who have fought and died so that the protestor may burn the flag, or call America and its institutions by names that, in any other not-so-tolerant land, would result in the protestor's execution, torture or beheading.
       America's Vigilance is not pure.   Our flag bleeds.   The red in it include all those who have fought to right America when it lists too far left or right.   But the heroes of American history are not those who fault America, who burn its flag, who demean its principles.
       The great heroes of America are those Vigilant citizens who find more good than bad in the flag, and what it represents.    Martin Luther King did not rise to glorification on the ashes of flags he burned, or by trying to cripple the Principles of Democracy.   He honored the nation's foundations, and reminded the world of the Visions of Vigilance, that we can overcome our failings, rise above our defects.

Vigilance is a state of Right Action: Raising the flag

       He did not attempt to destroy.  He put his efforts into rebuilding.
       That's why, on this day, July 4, 2003, it is important to look at the Fading Flag of Vigilance--the Star Spangled Banner.

       The Star Spangled Banner Flag's 15 stars and 15 stripes represent a history of standing up for America, not ripping it apart.   It also reminds us all that "independence" does not mean we are free from our duty to be Vigilant.  It means we are free from tyranny and oppression to be and act with Vigilance.
        While "independence" is a state of being, Vigilance is a state of action.

Help keep the Flag of Vigilance  flying for your Children's Children's Children this Independence Day and everyday

      Americans who respect the flag, who honor it for what it represents, see America as a nation that is evolving, moving closer each day toward a more Spangled Vigilant state, where all its citizens are Citizens of Vigilance, Mothers and Fathers of Vigilance, Loved Ones of Vigilance.
        Perhaps one day, when this happens, the fabric in the Star Spangled Banner will regain its original strength, and instead of a few people sewing it back into prime condition, the flag will be sewn by the Parents of Vigilance who have the Courage, Conviction and take the Right Action to salute the flag, not demean it.
        You can strengthen a stitch in the Star Spangled Banner today.   Take the Pledge of Vigilance.   It will insure the American Flag, the Flag of Vigilance, keeps flying for your Children's Children's Children.

July 3--Terror On The Golf Course

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