It was 5:42 AM and I was standing at the customer service door of the post office, waiting for someone to bring me my baby chicks. Through the door there was a bench against the wall, with a box on the floor next to it. Inside the box was a wadded up American flag.
My mind flashed back to Girl Scouts. Our troop worked together to earn a merit badge on the American Flag. We learned its history and rich symbolism. We learned flag etiquette and protocol. The culmination of the project was a flag burning ceremony, so that we could learn the proper way to discard our nation's flag. It was a solemn ritual which could not help but evoke emotion in each girl's heart.
By the time I got to university, flag burning was an all too common means of protest against the government's policies and politics. When you think about it, really, it's more than just a protest, it's a blatant symbol of disrespect. It sends the message that if one disagrees with someone else, then the appropriate response is to disrespect them.
We live in a day and age when it is stated that respect must be earned. I'm amazed that few folks see the circular reasoning in which this results. Person A requires that Person B earn their respect. Until then, A treats B rudely. Person B requires the same thing - that A earn their respect. But A is treating them disrespectfully, so B reciprocates in kind. In the end, no one ever earns anyone's respect and the result is a society of rude, self-centered, disrespectful folk. I would propose that respect is the proper and logical manner in which to treat all people and all things. It is TRUST which must be earned.
I realize that it takes some amount of self-respect to treat all others respectfully. Instead, popular psychology addresses self-esteem, which appears to build itself on the principle of equality. I had a friend who grew up in California. She said that they did not believe in using the terms "sir" and "ma'am" because were terms that hearkened back to slavery. She said there were other ways to teach respect. I always wondered what that meant because every time she came over her kids got into things they shouldn't, and usually ended up breaking or destroying something.
Contrast that to Coach Ken Carter. (Have you seen the movie? It's based on a real life basketball coach starring Samuel L. Jackson as Coach Carter. Highly recommended). He requires all members of his teams to address not only himself, but one another, as "sir" because, he says, it is a sign of respect, and he requires all his players to respect one another. I would propose that if each person on this planet automatically showed respect for one another, there would be no need for so call self-esteem training. Why? Because respect cannot be taken, it can only be given.
Folks cite many reasons (economics, industrialization, the environment, etc.) as to why our modern way of life is doomed to fail. Others disagree, claiming that science, technology, and our evolving universal consciousness will save us. What's that got to do with a flag? After all, a nation's flag is just a colorful piece of cloth; it is neither holy nor sacred of itself. But as a symbol of that nation and that people, it has value greater than gold. How they treat that symbol is a reflection of what they think of themselves. To see that flag lying neglected and crumpled in that box spoke great symbolic words to me. I could not help but ask, what hope can there be for a nation that does not respect itself?