One day last week I made a startling discovery as I was walking through my neighborhood in Kalispell, Mont. For some reason, an extraordinary number of houses were flying the U.S. flag on their front porches.
This was several weeks after the Fourth of July and more than two months after Flag Day, but let’s face it: Even in heartland Montana, flying the flag is an increasing rarity, holiday or not. Yet, as I walked a two- or three-block radius from my home, I kept noticing the Stars and Stripes saluting me.
Coincidentally, I was just putting the final touches on my new book, “What Matters Most: God, Country, Family and Friends,” and it seemed like maybe God was trying to tell me something about the character of our country. What was it about that flag that was cherished by so many residents of a small town in the Mountain West, and what was it about the American spirit that made Old Glory the proper symbol for our time?
It got me thinking. I remembered how on July 6 when I had gone out to remove the flag from my own porch after the holiday weekend, I noticed a flag was still flying on a home about a block away. That inspired me to keep my own flag up as well. After all, our country seems to be in need of inspiration more than ever. With so many athletes, celebrities, and politicians ripping down our national traditions, smack-talking our national heroes and questioning our values, it seemed like the least I could do.
I wasn’t alone. In dozens of homes in my neighborhood the decision had been made to make a statement with the red, white and blue. Was it a movement? Was there a meme or a hashtag that had encouraged my neighbors to #FlyYourFlag or to be #FlagProud?
None that I could find. I did a Google search and discovered that there was no evidence of an organized patriotic movement to promote flag flying. Instead, it seemed entirely spontaneous. I decided to knock on doors to see what had motivated some of my neighbors to keep their flags flying instead of packing them away in shame, like so many of their fellow Americans who had been told that America was a racist, evil country with no redeeming value.
One young homeowner who asked to be identified as Mrs. Wood spoke for me and probably millions of others:
“With all the craziness going on, we think it’s important to remember the fundamentals,” she said. “People are trying to change a lot in our country all at once, and people need to remember what really matters.”
Boom! I promise I didn’t pay her to practically quote the title of my new book, but it was assurance that my premise was correct. God, country, family and friends — those are the fundamentals that anchor our lives, and when the winds of change shift, it is to those fundamentals that we cling, not bitterly, as President Obama suggested in a famous quote, but proudly and confidently.
Mrs. Wood spoke of the veterans in her family who had served under the flag, and noted, “Nowadays they don’t get the respect they deserve.” It made me think of Francis Scott Key’s War of 1812 paean to the durability of both our republic and our flag. No matter how perilous the fight, no matter how violent the assault, “O say can you see … that our flag was still there.”
Down the street, I talked to another neighbor who was flying not just the American flag, but also a Trump 2020 flag. When asked why he was flying the banners in tandem, he said that for him they represented the same thing: “Freedom, America, our rights, what the country used to be for years, and what President Trump wanted to continue.
“For us, it represents a rebellion in a way,” against the transformation of the country my neighbor sees happening in the Biden administration, he added. “We still believe in our liberties. Montana is a conservative state. You still have more rights here, hunting, fishing, guns, but that could change.”
As for the Trump flag? “That’s us giving our middle finger to the Democrat socialists.”
In a sense, that’s what I suspect the motivation is for many of us flying our U.S. flags, too. It’s not that everyday Democrats don’t love the country, but they are in thrall to an ideology that is willing to sacrifice everything uniquely American and replace it with a self-loathing counterfeit orthodoxy that would rob us of our ingenuity, our character and our exceptionalism. Most of us don’t want to fight, certainly not with guns, but we know that if we don’t fight back at all, we will be absorbed and erased and canceled.
In a word, the flag stands for freedom. It’s against the racist indoctrination of critical race theory. It’s against mask mandates without science. It’s against restrictions on religion. It’s against open borders. It’s against rewriting history. It’s against murder in our cities and criminals given free rein. It’s against rigged elections. It’s against censorship. In short, it’s against what our Founding Fathers called tyranny.
So, if there isn’t a movement to #FlyYourFlag, maybe it is time to start one. Maybe it will start in a small neighborhood of hard-working Americans in Northwest Montana. I’d like to think so.
Conservative icon Steve Bannon, the host of “War Room,” likes to say that “courage is contagious.” With any luck, maybe patriotism is too.