Thoughts On Burning The Flag

Thoughts On Burning The FlagMy first husband was a soldier in the United States Army for the first 10 years of our marriage. After that he left active duty and went reserve status for another 10, for a total “time in service” of 20 years.

Initially, he was a medic, then an LPN after his college training, to each unit he was assigned to, wherever we were stationed.

I was 18 years old, and he was 19 when he enlisted. He left for basic training just 3 days after our first child was born and he was gone for nearly four months. It was a sacrifice to be essentially a single-mother during the time he was away in boot camp and then his Advanced Individualized Traing (AIT). But I knew it was necessary and that he was serving our country.

After basic training and AIT we left our home and family in Utah and moved to Ft. Lewis, Washington, where we lived on a Private’s pay, barely making ends meet, for eighteen months, at which time he received an overseas assignment to Germany. He was gone for 8 months before he secured approval for our son and me to accompany him (it’s mandatory for soldiers to live on post, in the barracks, until they reach at least the rank of Specialist (E4) and spouses aren’t allowed to live in the barracks. So, once again, I was a single mom for the better part of a year.

After we joined him, we lived in Germany for 4 years. And I loved it there. Though, back in those days (1981 – 1985) there was no internet and cell phones hadn’t been invented yet, so long-distance phone calls to the states were extremely expensive. I very rarely got to call my mother…once a month, if that. And when I did, it cost over $100 per call…which put a real strain on our low-ranking budget. The entire time we were in Germany the troops would spend 45 days at a time “in the field”, almost every other month. What that means is that my then-husband was more than 100 miles away, without access to phone, and we had zero contact during the extended time he was training for the possibility of military engagement.

Another real concern while we were in Germany was the regular bomb threats received by American soldiers and their families who were stationed in that country. These attacks were making national news in the USA before I ever left to join him, so my mother was, justifiably, worried about our safety going to live in that country. As US military personnel and their dependents, we were required to follow a daily procedure of putting a different color of tape across all openings on our vehicles each night before bed and then checking all the doors in the morning before getting in to make sure nothing had been tampered with during the night…to ensure our safety. There were those who didn’t take this step and their car exploded with them inside. So, we took this precautionary action very seriously. Many times there would be local demonstrations in various communities outside of US military Post Exchanges (department stores) and Commissaries (grocery stores) where the locals would pour red paint all over their bodies and lay down in the streets, blocking traffic. A clear statement of their opinion about our presence in their country…(even though we were there by request of their government in order to help secure their borders).

Overall, most Germans were very friendly to us and I loved our time living there.

But there were certainly sacrifices made as a part of serving in the military.

Our second son was born while we were stationed in Deutchland and I came back 8 months pregnant with our daughter, who is our youngest child.

Once we returned to the USA we were, again, stationed in states far from our home and family. But we knew going into it that this would be the case.

After my then-husband left active duty and was serving in the US Army Reserves we relocated back to our home state of Utah. But in 1990 he was yet again called to active duty when the war with Kuwait broke out. His unit was deployed to southern Germany, to fill in for active duty personnel there, who were sent to serve in the middle east during Desert Storm.

And once more, I was a single mother.

But this time our kids were approximately ages 12, 8, and 6. And even now, all these years later, they acutely remember the day we hung a big Welcome Home sign on the fence in our front yard and tied yellow ribbons all around the house before going to meet their father when he, and the rest of his unit, returned home from that war.

Why do I tell you all of this?

Because I suspect most “average Americans” have no idea what it means to truly sacrifice and serve their country. To spend days, weeks, months, and years away from home and family, to place yourself in harm’s way 24-hours a day, 7-days a week, 365 days a year, in order to preserve the freedoms those same Americans enjoy, without thought or consideration, every day of their lives.

So, after participating in that system, first-hand, for so many years of my life, it really annoys me to see people who have never given up anything, never truly dedicated themselves to something of significance, literally taking for granted not only the freedoms fought and paid for with blood, sweat, and tears of our brave men and women in arms…but all too happy to suck the system dry seeking federal funding for college, food stamps, financial benefit, and more.

And then they go so far as to trample on the flag…burn the very symbol of that sacrifice and freedom by which they receive so much benefit?

Yes, I absolutely believe in the First Amendment right to Freedom of Speech. It is one of the core freedoms and privileges our military personnel fight to ensure. So, yes, unlike many other countries where that freedom is not guaranteed and there are strict prohibitions against such public displays of anti-nationalism, I’m grateful for the fact that, as Americans, we can openly express our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and even disapproval of government.

But I find it deeply disturbing and absolutely distasteful and reprehensible that there are citizens of this great country who enjoy the freedoms afforded that citizenship, yet who so blatantly devalue the sacrifices made by the few in order to maintain those benefits of the many.

And that, to me, is exactly what those who burn our flag are doing.

I find it shameful.

Marriage, Equality, and Gay Rights

GayFamiliesLet me start by saying that I believe these are three, separate issues that should not be further complicated by intertwining them, because they are each so simple, yet seem to be made utterly complex in today’s society.

Personally, I don’t understand the confusion. Since I live in the United States of America, I will address the issues of marriage, equality and gay rights as they relate to the laws of our land. But bear in mind that I feel these rights apply to our very humanity, so in that sense, should not alter from one country to another, but should be instead be universal in their application.

Allow me to address each issue, individually:

1. Equality – The most famous sentence from The Declaration of Independence is found in it’s second paragraph and reads: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” (see http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html) So, according to the law of the land, there really is no debate here. “All men (humans) are created equal”. Period.

2. Marriage – The loudest complaint I hear on this issue comes from the Religious Right/Conservative community, claiming that it is imperative that “the sanctity” of marriage be protected. Their defense normally goes something like this: “Marriage is a sacred covenant between one man and one woman.” And they base this assertion on passages of scripture, most specifically; Genesis 2: 22-24, which reads: “Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman, ‘ for she was taken out of man.” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” But I also hear people quoting a similar verse; Matthew 19: 4-6, which reads – “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ ? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

So, I want to be completely clear on something that I haven’t heard anyone else really focusing on. My position is this – Ok. Fine. I agree with them. Let MARRIAGE remain a “sacred union” between one man and one woman. But before you get defensive, hear me out.

Marriage _SHOULD_ be ONLY a sacred union. Between God (thus the designation “sacred”, ie; related to God) and His (I specify gender here because we are discussing marriage, which is primarily a religious convention/tradition of the Abrahamic faiths…whose god is male) followers. I find it kind of interesting that we hear so much talk about division of church and state…but somehow marriage is not really addressed in those conversations. My point is this – IF there is going to be a “sacred ritual” involving covenants and agreements between a deity and it’s worshippers, then I’m ok with that. BUT, but, but…it absolutely SHOULD be confined to the realm of religion and we should NEVER assign LEGAL BENEFITS to those who choose to participate in a religious ritual. Why society ever decided people should have to receive a “license” from the state in order to participate in, and more importantly, validate, such a religious ritual is baffling to me. The only rational explanation in my mind is that the state saw it as a means of revenue generation.

If you do some research into the origins of marriage you will find some pretty interesting stuff. According to Barbara G. Walker’s comprehensive work, “The Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets”, ‘The word marriage came from Latin maritare, union under the auspices of the Goddess Aphrodite-Mari. Because the Goddess’s patronage was constantly invoked in every aspect of marriage, Christian fathers were opposed to the institution. Origen declared, “Matrimony is impure and unholy, a means of sexual passion.” St. Jerome said the primary purpose of a man was to “cut down with an ax of Virginity the wood of Marriage.” St. Ambrose said marriage was a crime against God, because it changed the state of virginity that God gave every man and woman at birth. Tertulian said marriage was a moral crime “more dreadful than any punishment or death.” It was spurcitiae, “obscenity”, or “filth.” St. Augustine flatly stated that marriage is a sin. Tatian said marriage is corruption, “a polluted and foul way of life.” Influenced by him, Syrian churches ruled that no person could become Christian except celibate men, and no man who had ever been married could be baptized. Saturninus said God made only two kinds of people, good men and evil women. Marriage perpetuated the deviltry of women, who dominated men through the magic of sex. Centuries later, St. Bernard still proclaimed that it was easier for a man to bring the dead back to life than to live with a woman without endangering his soul.” Ms. Walker goes on to explain, in well documented detail, the history and evolution of the institution of marriage, and it’s really very insightful reading! I won’t quote all of what she has to say here, but will share two other pertinent points; 1. According to William J. Fielding’s Strange Customs of Courtship and Marriage, New York: Garden City Publishing, Co. 1942, “There was no Christian sacrament of marriage until the 16th century.” And 2. According to W. Carew Hazlitt’s Faiths and Folklore of the British Isles (2 vols.) New York: Benjamin Blom, Inc., 1965, “The Anglican marriage service came from the Anglo-Saxon deeds used to transfer a woman’s land to the stewardship of her “houseman”(husband).

So, it all comes back to money, possessions, and control of them. And, of course, the government could not pass up the opportunity to get it’s share of the action.

But back to my opinion, which is this: Keep religion OUT of the legal system. And let’s not assign certain tax, medical insurance, or other legal benefits to those who have chosen to participate in this (what should be a purely) religious institution.

3. Gay Rights – I really think this one is easy and a no-brainer. I’ll just refer you back to my comments above in item #1 and the fact that humans are (all) endowed with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Nothing is mentioned about sexual preference, race, nationality, culture, etc. Everyone deserves equal treatment. And especially so when it comes to legal benefits.

So, IF marriage is going to go outside the confines of a purely religious ritual and instead, carries with it certain benefits and privileges bestowed by the government and our legal system, then ALL PEOPLE should be able to participate in these benefits…because THE LAW and THE GOVERNMENT should not be in the business of religion.