by Ray Lenarcic

The colors of our flag have meant different things to different people. They’ve meant many things to me as I’ve indicated in several articles I’ve written on the subject. For example, in “A Colorful Look at Old Glory” I used Thomas Jefferson’s words “life, liberty, pursuit of happiness” as a focal point relating to the flag’s colors. Red stripes represented the bloodshed by every man and woman who gave his or her “life” for this country-including the victims of 9/11. The color white has often been synonymous with something good (e.g. good guys dressed in white; white knights). In the article, I associated that color with our “liberties;” the good things epitomized by freedoms of religion, assembly, speech, and press and from fear. And I equated the stars in the blue background with points of light, average citizens who gave a slice of time volunteering on behalf of those less fortunate so that they might “pursue their happiness.”

From this Flag Day on, the colors will have different meanings for me. The red stripes will remind me of the blood spilled by 19 children and two teachers who were massacred in their classrooms at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas on May 24th; blood that never would have been shed if two simple, common-sense laws were in place nationally-one would ban assault weapons and the other would implement a modified version of Canada’s background checks. The white stripes will remind me of the innocence of children, their perpetually smiling faces, raucous laughter, devil-may-care attitudes unburdened by the responsibilities and stress concomitant with growing up; an innocence so clearly evident on the faces of each of the Uvalde 19. And the stars in a darkened background, both on the flag and in a summer’s night sky, will remind me of all the young children taken from us far too soon. Not only in Uvalde but also Sandy Hook and Dunblane, Scotland (gun laws enacted in its wake have prevented a repeat since 1996!). Taken away not only by shootings but also from pediatric cancers and other childhood diseases like the one that took the beautiful, blond-haired five-year-old daughter of Vietnam combat veteran Royal Kraeger from Constableville, New York.

Doctors had no idea why Jennifer died, why she suffered a stroke that, among other things, blinded her, or why she was born with a birth deformity common among children of Vietnam combat veterans. But we knew why. She was a victim of the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse-Agent Orange-the lethal, dioxin-laced defoliant dumped to the tune of millions of gallons on the jungle and troops alike. One can only wonder how many stars represent the other Jennifers who were lost because their fathers inhaled the “orange mist.”

So, the colors of the American flag will have new meaning for me from now on. And when you think of the flag, you can’t help but think of the words of the pledge which ring hollow more now than ever. We sure as heck aren’t an “indivisible” nation, and because the Uvalde assassin had the “liberty” to purchase without qualification that weapon of mass destruction, there’d be no “justice for all” for those fourth graders. And as for “under God,” what kind of god allows for the wanton destruction of the most precious among us in the most horrible of manners? When Francis Bellamy wrote the pledge, he was chronicling an ideal, undoubtedly hoping that his words would become a reality. And “under God” was not part of his version.

This Flag Day, I’d love to have school leaders throughout the country pledge to develop a Forget Me Not Garden on or near their campus grounds. It wouldn’t take up much room-a few pavers in a circle inside which would be a white cross surrounded by silk forget-me-nots and in the middle, a flag pole with Old Glory atop. The tribute to the Robb Elementary School victims and all the others would constantly remind passersby to do everything possible to ensure that another tragedy like May 24th’s will NEVER occur and to honor their memories by making each tomorrow better than every today. Holly, holy love

Take the Lonely Child
And the seed
Let it be filled with tomorrow
Holly Holy (Neil Diamond)

Ray Lenarcic is a member of the Little Falls Historical Society.