I saw this on my way to work this morning, around the corner from the church. Needless to say, it bothered me. The war’s over. The flag is associated with too much baggage to do anyone any good. I’ve seen this before. Northern Ireland is a land rife with division over flags and their role in determining how a people understand history. Violent protests in cities across Northern Ireland are not uncommon at the mere mention of replacing flags, lowering flags, or changing the number of days a flag is flown. It was sad to see people beaten, nearly to death, over the decision not to fly a flag in the second decade of the 21st century in an industrialized, western European democracy.
Flags, in many parts of the world, are something people kill and willing to die for, even today. And when I say die, I don’t mean in the grand sense of a noble cause, I mean in street fights with drunken thugs. People die in ignoble ways defending flags over issues they do not fully understand. They die out of ignorance, stupidity, and misinterpretations of historical fact. I’ve seen it happen as a frightening reality. This is why I believe what we do and say about the flags of our past is important to the future of a nation. Not one human life is worth the imagery, emotions, or baggage that accompanies such a controversial banner.
When I saw the flag of a defeated nation; a nation built on the religious legitimization of human bondage for economic gain (in the midst of our current national debate) my heart sank. Not here, not now. I bought the flag on display and the owners of the store gave me the others in stock. It’s down. They’re gone. What will happen tomorrow? I can’t say. I do know this: I will deal with that tomorrow. Today, I simply recall the words Paul wrote in his second letter to the church at Corinth, “I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” He’s got that about right.