The raising of the flag holds such significance. A flag fluttering in the breeze, displaying colours and shape which carry meaning in so many different ways. For many a flag is something which unites and creates a sense of cohesion, for others it alienates and divides.
Remembrance is a time when the national flag, among others, is raised and gathered around. At its best, the flag is a symbol of pride in all that is good, at its worst it is used to segregate. Perhaps the flag communicates a truth about the nation it represents which goes beyond reasoned words or statements, but which catches the real identity of a people.
And an important element of this acknowledgement is the raising of the flag.
The flag communicates identity – this is where we belong. This is the nation which we call home. It may not be perfect, it may be flawed and decidedly imperfect, but it is home. Part of the democratic process which we own in our own nation, is the opportunity to shape and define the heart and soul of our nation state. The nation state is far more than borders and passport controls – it has a culture and value base which echoes and reverberates on every street corner, fast food outlet and shopping mall up and down the country. Visitors to our country are acutely aware of the nature of this culture, as we are when we visit foreign places on holiday. We catch it at restaurants when ordering a meal, on a country lane when drivers give way to other road users, on busy city streets when we ask for help to find the way…the culture of a nation is communicated in simple, unobtrusive ways.
We live in really interesting times in our own nation – it as though the identity of our own nation is in flux, being formed and re-formed in a new and vibrant (and sometimes not so vibrant) way. Maybe the whole ‘brexit’ process is an important element in all of this – as we really consider what is important in the common life, how we live together, and why we are proud to be a part of this nation. Nations get into trouble, and perhaps this has been our experience, when within a nation ‘Pride’ becomes set at an all-time high, and Humility’ an all-time low – in other words when we think of ourselves better than other national groups – more educated, civilised or efficient. Yet humility has at its core a wonderful confidence in identity, openness to others and a contagious generosity expressing our mutual need of one another.
In recent weeks in the US there has been a fascinating conflict in the raising of the US flag and the national anthem – it has became embroiled in the standing of their President and the life experience of many of its own people in the ‘black lives matter’ campaign. The conflict displays a real engagement in identity and the importance of a nation living up to its aspirations in practical and every day ways.
So in this season of Remembrance, our flag will be raised. We will ‘do’ an act of ‘Penitence’ (recognising mistakes and we are no better than other peoples), an act of ‘Remembrance’ (when names are read and the cost of peace is owned) and an act of ‘Commitment’ (when we commit ourselves to a future which is generous, open and confident).
May the flag we each raise (in the manner we choose to live by) be a confident, vibrant contribution to the flag of our nation state – especially in this unique time of change and upheaval.