Jewish World Review Nov. 5, 2001/ 19 Mar-Cheshvan, 5762

Gayle A. Cox

Gayle Allen Cox
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Flying the flag isn't a new habit for some of us -- THE current surge of patriotism has flag makers working overtime and merchants clearing shelves.

Wal-Mart, the nation's largest retailer, sold 115,000 flags the day of the terrorist attacks and 200,000 the day after.

From the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans, white with foam, flags are everywhere, adding red, white, and blue to the otherwise autumn landscape.

To me, it is a beautiful sight.

Of course, I am one of those patriotic souls who flies the flag year-round. One was dangling on my door wreath the morning that terror invaded our shores, and another one was hanging on a wall inside my house.

I guess you could say flag fanaticism is a way of life for me. Something about the sight of those broad stripes and bright stars makes me weepy and proud all at once. Always has; always will.

Despite what one might think, my rigid respect for the Stars and Stripes isn't due to personal losses suffered during times of war. Instead, it is due to a lack of personal losses suffered during times of war.

You see, Old Glory represents something of great worth that I didn't pay for. It is freedom's signature, you might say. And the only reason I enjoy freedom's immeasurable rewards is that someone else paid the ultimate price. Someone brave. Someone unselfish. Someone human, just like me.

Needless to say, I also cry and get goose bumps before the first measure of "The Star-Spangled Banner" is complete.

Oh, sure, the tongue-tangling words are difficult to remember, and the melody is quite challenging to sing, but complicated or not, the song means something to me.

It reminds me of those wars I didn't fight, those chaotic nights I didn't endure, and the spilled blood that wasn't mine.

Much has been written lately about how we ought to adopt a new national anthem - one that is prettier and easier to sing. But I hope we don't. Freedom's price wasn't pretty or easy. The least I can do is learn a difficult song in commemoration.

No, I don't sound like Whitney Houston belting out, "o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave," but I belt it out just the same. My eyes never leave the flag, and

my hand never leaves my heart. In fact, I have little patience for people who stand around with their hands in their pockets, looking bored while the national anthem is being sung.

The way I see it, if you can't spend a few minutes honoring our flag and the brave soldiers who gave their lives defending our country, you are a spoiled, ungrateful brat who needs to find another country to live in.

(Those were my feelings before terror stuck, and those will be my feelings when all of the dust has settled.)

I don't know how long the current flag-waving gusto will last, but I hope it isn't just a trendy, ephemeral thing. I hope it continues long after the final piece of evil-inspired rubble has been removed and the last human remains have been taken away.

But even if it doesn't, my flag-flying habits won't cease. Come rain or shine, peace or war, I will continue displaying the Stars and Stripes in conspicuous places, as I always have.

Not only is it my way of saying thanks to those who died that I might enjoy a life of freedom, but during these dark days of great loss and uncertainty, it is my way of saying, "G-d bless America ... through the night with a light from above."

JWR contributor Gayle Allen Cox writes from Fort Worth. Comment on this column by clicking here.


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07/09/01: Teen tramps and the mothers who encourage them

© 2001, Gayle Allen Cox