Hello there, I am the American flag, aka, the "Stars and Stripes," aka, "Old Glory," aka, the "Star Spangled Banner."
I am the most recognizable symbol of the United States of America. Don't let Lady Liberty tell you different; believe me, when you think of America, I'm the first thing that comes to mind. I'm freedom and democracy, pride and honor, all rolled - or should I say, methodically folded - into one red, white and blue package.
Just how important am I? At the risk of sounding full of myself, there is a holiday in my honor, for starters. And not only do people salute me, you're not allowed to throw me away. To my knowledge, I am the only inanimate object that is ceremoniously honored when my high-flying days are done.
If you put me away for storage, you can't just toss me in a chest, you have to fold me a certain way, so I take the shape of a perfect triangle when you're done. If it wasn't for me, the soldiers on Iwo Jima would've had nothing to raise. Thanks to the First Amendment, you can desecrate me, but don't let anyone catch you doing it.
You can see me flying high above the ground in pretty much any city in the country, either in front of a court house or in someone's front yard. I proudly fly in front of government buildings, schools, the tiniest of township halls, police departments, and I'm displayed in museums around the country. They show pictures of me during the National Anthem, and I come in all different forms - stickers, lapel pins, buttons, patches, stamps, even clothing.
I have had millions of truly memorable moments since I was first displayed in 1776 - remember Lake Placid when goalie Jim Craig draped me over his shoulders? - and although I have had plenty of work done throughout the years, my meaning has stood the test of time.
At the risk of sounding all high and mighty, I believe I am as iconic today as I have ever been.
But I'm bothered. It's my nature to fly as high as possible over the land of the free and the home of the brave, so I don't particularly enjoy flying at half-staff. And in case you haven't noticed, I've been doing a lot of that lately. When you see me flying lower than usual as you did after the bombings in Boston, you know either someone really important has died or something really bad has happened that resulted in innocent people losing their lives.
There are days throughout the year when I am obligated to fly at half-staff, like Memorial Day and Patriot Day, but there are also times like last week, seemingly ordinary days, when I fly lower than usual when the country is dealing with tragedy.
These kinds of "special occasions" are special for the wrong reasons, and every time I get lowered to the middle of the flagpole I wonder, what has happened to this country? Why do terrible things keep happening?
This is still a great and proud country, filled with brave, diverse and wonderful people who are proud to call America home. But the drawback of being a self-proclaimed melting pot is bad people from other countries have just as much right to make a new life here in the land of opportunity as good people do. And it sure doesn't help that our great country is so accessible compared to other countries.
Don't get me wrong, I'm still as proud as ever to majestically flutter in the breeze, I would just rather do it at the top of the flag pole, not in the middle.