What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stranger

A Ceremonial Burning September 19, 2015

So, in my days as a Girl Scout before we discovered that Boy Scouts have way less paperwork and I joined the male side of the scouting world, I went to the Norwich Camporee. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the comcept of a camporee, it’s basically a bunch of scouts camping in a giant field while hoping no one pees on their tent in the middle of the night while spending the days competing in the mud, trying to prove yourself the best at everything from knot tying and fire building to following directions and team skills. Needless to say, our patrol won.

Norwich was an amazing experience, and one of the coolest parts was the Saturday night bonfire. The Norwich students had used old phone poles, and yes I do mean as-tall-as-a-house phone poles for the base, and built the biggest bonfire I had ever seen. And I didn’t even get to see the sucker get lit since the fire marshal came and made them take off a few layers to decrease the chance of it falling and killing us all. But even at its moderately diminished height, that fire was a thing of beauty. And then they brought out an old American flag that had seen better days and needed to be burned. They cut out all the different pieces and laid them on the fire in a beautiful ceremony. (To read about the proper disposal of the American flag by Boy Scouts, click here.)

Watching a bunch of what seemed like older people to me at the time but were really college students treat a flag so reverently taught me a lot of things.

First, and as a disclaimer, I don’t agree with everything our government does. I don’t agree with how we handle our underprivileged, our students or our minorities. But this is still my home. And seeing the flag treated so reverently has burned into my mind that the stars and stripes, which were probably manufactured in China, aren’t about what’s happening today. It’s a flag that has been built over two centuries. Literally, we’ve added stars, we’ve changed the flag to fit our country. It’s about a country that’s learned and grown and has potential to continue to grow, maybe not in land mass, but in principle.

So when we all start fighting about the presidential debate, (which has already begun, so fasten your seatbelts, this one is going to be a rough ride) please remember that when we look at the flag, we might all see different things. But it’s still a flag that belongs to all of us. It’s a part of our journey as a nation and that journey isn’t done. We are still creating the history of the flag. And the next time a flag is placed reverently on a fire one star at a time, maybe don’t worry about the politicians who are fighting. But think about the school that the flag flew over, because maybe the choices we make as we live under the flag make just as a big a difference as the fights we have over it.


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