Stephen and I have been friends for close to thirty years, and I have always appreciated his mischievous but loving heart and commitment to doing what is right. His singing has been a precious gift to me and so many others. The words shared below are also the ones he speaks in the video he just recorded. I’ve included a link to that as well because I want to give you the opportunity to experience them both ways.
Take back our flag
by Stephen Merritt, Whidbey Island, Washington
“Oh beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain.. .”
I love that song. I grew up in Colorado Springs, at the foot of Pike’s Peak, where that song was written. My name is Stephen Merritt and I’m a musician. Normally, I would be singing something, but today I have some thoughts that I’d like to share. I’m also a Viet Nam veteran. I earned the ribbons that are on this hat I’m wearing. When I got out of the military, I protested against the war that I fought in because I didn’t believe in it…a lot of us didn’t. After that, I kind of gave up the flag. I didn’t give up the dream but I gave up the flag.
Fifty years later, I’ve got early stage Parkinson’s because of exposure to Agent Orange in the Mekong Delta. I do not believe in everything that’s been done in the name of the American flag. But I do believe in the vision. I believe in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And I believe that this flag belongs to each and every one of us.
Over the last three-plus years, I watched in disbelief when an American president stood on a world stage and sided with Vladimir Putin over his own fourteen intelligence agencies. I watched as crying babies were separated from their mother’s arms by his decree. I watched as he first ignored, then downplayed the virus, wasting precious months that could have saved so many of the lives that have been lost.
But Lafayette Park blew my patriotic circuits—to watch the American military, MY military, using tear gas and rubber bullets to clear their PEACEFULLY protesting fellow Americans was gut-wrenching. You know what else I noticed? Only one American flag in the footage I watched. And then it struck me…How different would it look if most of the demonstrators were carrying flags?? That flag that represents the vision of “toward a more perfect Union,” that we are all created equal, that every soul has nobility. These days, it seems that the word patriotism and our flag have been co-opted and claimed by certain groups.
I believe that NOW is the time for all of us to reclaim our flag—to show each other and the world that we still believe in each other, still believe in that imperfect dream. We are ALL Americans, Right, Left, Black, White, Red, Blue. What better symbol than the American flag to unite us, after all that has been done to divide us. E pluribus unum, out of many, one.
At my age, with my health issues, I can’t join the marchers. But I can do my part, which is to invite you to share this video and fly the flag! We are all being called to act, each and every one of us, in whatever ways we can. The tide is turning because demonstrating for equality is patriotism, not terrorism. Let’s take back our flag and the dream it stands for!