Among the most foolish ideas to emanate from the foolish '60s is that what you feel in your heart is more important than what you publicly express. According to this thinking, to cite one example, patriotism is a feeling, not a flag displayed on national holidays. On the contrary, such displays are derided as "flag waving," which has been rendered a pejorative term.
We have lost an appreciation for the monumental significance of public ritual in maintaining our national identity and values. We have also greatly overstated the ability of feelings to be maintained without public expression of those feelings.
Additional examples make this point clear.
Ask your wife if she would feel equally loved and appreciated if you never gave her a card or gift on her birthday, your wedding anniversary or Mother's Day. After all, if you really believe that feelings need not be manifested in any formal, ritualistic way, why bother with a card or gift on her birthday? Presumably you love her just as much on that day as any other, so why engage in card waving?
The reason is that for the vast majority of people, their birthday is a significant day, and its significance should be publicly manifested and even celebrated, not just internally felt. "Honey, there's no card, no dinner out, no party and no gift, because I don't believe in those things. I love you in my heart" -- that doesn't work.
Nor does, "I love my country, so any public manifestation or celebration of that love is pointless." So many Americans are tone-deaf to patriotism as anything more than public dissent, or affirmation of the Constitution, or personal feeling. Yet, Americans have died for the flag, and members of Congress had tears in their eyes (as I had in mine) when Republican and Democrat alike sang "God Bless America" after 9-11.
That is why many of us want the Pledge of Allegiance with the words "under God" said in schools every day. The argument that anyone can do all the God-talk they want at home or at church is no more convincing than the argument that anyone can sing the national anthem at home, so why have people do it at baseball games? Public expressions of societal values are crucial to keeping those values alive.
An America without its flag displayed on national holidays is an America that has lost its sense of self. I am not arguing that displaying the flag guarantees patriotism, only that (a) it is an indispensable aid to its survival, and that (b) never displaying the flag will eventually kill patriotism.
Dennis Prager is a SRN radio show host, contributing columnist for Townhall.com and author of his newest book, “The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code.”
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