June 14, 2016
Flag Day is a fantastic opportunity for reflection on historic memory and the arts of memory. As I encourage you here to write down or document in some way your personal history, I also try to foster philosophical habits of reflection that help us think about historic memory as such. A good deal of iCulture’s content already focused on the arts of memory. Tragedy, allegory, poetry, visual memory and the techno media are all forms of record-keeping, technologies of memory, and arts of remembrance. This frame gives us a dwelling space within which we can engage in a contemplation and a discussion about Flag Day 2016. Historic memory and knowledge offer the best protection against the numerous acts of terrorism we are asked to endure daily, some by actual physical attacks carried out in our public spaces and some in our very homes and private spaces, courtesy of the press and the media networks.
The flag is a memorial. The flag of a nation represents its honour and its memory. Its appearance as an object and a prop in action reflects the health of the historical identity it bears. When it appears on the calendar, it does so as carrier of recurring content, content that requires remembrance and reinterpretation with every return of the day. The calendar is the most important memory technology we employ to collect our identity from the scattered and otherwise meaningless events of linear chronology. Ours is the Gregorian Christian calendar. Even though its secularisation emptied it of liturgical content, the calendar remains bound to Christian sacrament, the material practice of Christianity, which was designed to format human existence on earth from birth through baptism and confirmation to marriage, healing and death. History as we know it today began with the advent of Christ’s resurrection, in 0 AD. It begins with the birth of the Son of Man, the only God-begotten son, and stretches to eternity. Every historic body falls under the flag of Christian identity. Our calendar begins with the birth of Christ and our history can only be told through recurring structures in that calendar.
The Flag Stands for the Body of a Nation
The body the flag represents has a history. Today the identity of a historic body is often confused with totemic identity, which is marked by the sacrifice of a totem animal. When we say our soldiers have made the ultimate sacrifice to the flag, their lives, we are in fact dishonouring them. We are all part of the same body represented by the flag, no more nor less than the soldier, but the flag elevates this body above the creaturely body fit for sacrifice. It is a dishonour to treat any part of the historic body represented by the flag as a sacrifice. It reduces us to the status of creatures and robs us of our humanity.
The body the flag represents is Christian. What does “Christian” mean? To some it is just another totemic identity, but that’s far from its intrinsic truth. Christian identity is different and special because it put an end to the sacrifice of creatures practiced by all pre-historic religions. The American flag does not represent the body of a creature, whose blood is to be sacrificed to the alter of group identity, because at its inception it did not serve humans practicing pre-historic rituals. The American flag represents a very different group body: an abstract, immaterial presence that is nevertheless active in history. Since the logic of this identity follows the historic path of the Son of Man, Christ, and his saints, all children of God, it is marked not by sacrifice, but by the struggles of the Lord at the hands of earthly power.
There is no other nation whose flag is fully identified with its role in history, because it is the youngest flag among the world powers. Christ was the door to history and this means the American flag, like the veil of Veronica, represents his earthly remains, a record of the suffering endured at the hands of earthly power. This is the flag the world celebrates on Flag Day, the flag of the Angel of Freedom and the living power of the Lord moving history relentlessly toward the splendour of His Kingdom of peace and eternal grace. On Flag Day the gentle wing of freedom glides over all the nations and the American flag embodies this ephemeral presence. This, more than the sacrifice of soldiers some believe is the meaning of Flag Day, is the true calling of the holiday.
Realities of War
Memorial holidays also remind us of the realities of war. Their significance changes every year as the nation is confronted with new challenges. It is the responsibility of the media to frame the new narrative intelligently, but partisanship and extreme censure by the political affiliations of news agencies and the press at large has reduced their capacity to reflect anything beyond pre-formatted political content. It is up to us to pick up the pieces.
It is fitting to remember the prayer for peace Nixon penned in 1969 in the context of a bloody, senseless, and unnecessary war that claimed the destiny of an entire generation of Americans. memorial prayer (http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=105927) Wars and acts of terror are intended to change our identity. Our holidays help us heal the wounds of war and terror. They help us preserve our identity and our flag intact through every debacle and every national tragedy.
An example from our recent history is the Vietnam war, which was matched by an equally successful internal “drug” war, by which I don’t mean the war on drugs, but the war drugs wage on human life. The drug war claimed the lives of the most talented young artists, poets, and philosophers. It cut them off from reaching maturity, and robbed us of their contribution to the intellectual life of the nation. Besides holidays, the national media are also means of preserving our identity. The media, film especially, help us make sense of the immense losses of national resources every war and every act of terror cost.
Film Medium Processes Psychological Impact of History
Film: the Art and Psychology of Historic Memory
The film medium picked up the pieces with such productions as the musical plea for peace “Hair” (Forman, 1979). The title is, intentionally or not, an homonym for “Heir” and a reference to the Heirs of God who appeared to be abandoned by Him at the time of the most destructive war. Here is a reminder: Children Forgotten by God https://youtu.be/fhNrqc6yvTU. The more lasting reformatting of the psychological reality of unjust war came with the gradual re-definition of the horror genre from sophisticated Hitchcockian thriller to mass massacres at the hands of zombies, vampires, and cannibals. Film was not only responding to an altered reality, courtesy of the Vietnam war, but also began educating the mass consumer in the pleasures of sacrificial ritual until the viewing public became numb to its horrors and simply accepted the re-definition of Christianity as a religion of horror. Even Christian leaders forgot that the paramount goal of Christianity was the abolishing of sacrifice and slavery and began to accept a devastating historical narrative designed to abolish Christian faith. By the 1990s American youths had widely accepted the replacement of the immortality of the Christian soul with that of the vampire. The finest work of the film medium such as Neil Jordan’s 1994 “Interview with the Vampire” reflected and even embraced this new identity, which was violently imposed on Christian youth during and after the Vietnam war.
Meaningless Vietnam War undoes and defaces the Just and Good Cold War Resulting in Hunger, Violence, and the Mass Displacement of Humans
The Vietnam war was a distraction from and ultimately the undoing of the Cold War, which was a just war. The Cold War had advanced the art of war to bloodless warfare, an unprecedented development in history. It achieved a level of sanity in the art of war and the highest historical standard of regard for human life. The powers of evil, unfortunately, continued to lust after blood. The Cold War shed no blood and was carried out entirely through media, industrial, and high technological means. The USA won this war with intelligence, technical sophistication, and an ideology of freedom deeply rooted in American Christian consciousness. The consciousness of a nation is its only claim to honour. It is won slowly, painstakingly, and with historical determination. The US is currently undoing both its honour and its memorial arts as it continues on a downward spiral of forgetfulness. The consequences are dire for the entire world, because its highest calling is to be the model democracy for the developing world and the guardian angel of European Christian civilisation, which would otherwise fall in the hands of tyrannical regimes, homegrown or imported.
We have now largely forgotten that the Cold War was not waged against the Russian people, but against the corruption of Marxism. Marx simply took the moral code of the Christian community and applied it to a meaningless materialist system of valuation, economic currency, thus emptying the community of the meaning of divine presence and of Christian sacrament. Marxism sounds good because it is re-selling the stolen goods from the Church. Marx provided the ideological foundation for all dictatorial regimes and gave them justification and historic validation. The 1993 US election reversed everything we gained in the Cold War. The years that followed plunged the world back into the pre-WWI colonial and economic chaos as the US embraced Marx as ideological foundation of its domestic and foreign policy. An unfortunate historic development, the institution of debilitating government bureaucracies had already taken hold of the (post)-colonial world. Would-be post-colonial democracies were delivered a final blow when the US embraced Marxism in the mid 1990s. Instead of seeing the US as a pillar of hope and a model democracy, newly freed colonies, fuelled by Marxist ideology, had been counting the US their enemy. Under pressure from the other colonies, in the mid 1990s the first and only successful post-colonial country, the USA, was seduced by Marxism. This left the developing colonial world with no real alternative and no real values. The corruption of the post-colonial world then led to mass migration, because the freshly minted democracies were too weak to sustain a moral code necessary for real economic and political stability. Mass starvation, mass corruption, and in some cases, mass genocides ensued. Photographers like Sebastião Salgado documented the atrocities that are still with us:
By 2001 the technological gains of two world wars and the cold war were essentially obliterated as the US, the only hope and model for the colonies, was debilitated by another Vietnam-type quagmire of a war with no end in sight, the Middle Eastern debacle. The senseless bloodshed is still with us and the number of hopeless, hungry, driven to violence refugees rises catastrophically on a daily basis.
The Gift of 2016: A Choice for the Future
Flag Day 2016 staged a contest between the two competing versions of the holy-day: those who believe it stands for totemic sacrifice and those who believe it stands for the only freedom available in history. This year, like every year, presents not only Americans, but honest citizens of free countries around the world, with the choice between tyranny and peace, for both are plentifully available to us, this year and every year. The choice is in every beating heart.
Tragedy of Flag Day 2016
The Orlando shooting is a national tragedy. Much like the terror attack in Brussels during Easter week 2016, this attack attempted to mar the celebration of our Christian flag. The spectrum of political responses is a strong indicator that democracy is well and alive in the country. The national territory is home to many who don’t identify as Christians and Americans and who do not honour our flag. We have a duty to be good hosts to them, but we also must recognise their difference and the impossibility of universal inclusion under one flag. By the same token, we have to preserve our identity and the sacred body represented by the flag intact. We cannot let our guests desecrate it and we must stake the right to ask them to leave if they cannot respect the identity of their host. We cannot let guests take over our identity and forget who we are, forget that we live under a Christian flag representing a historic body that has specific cultural features and traditions.
Christianity is not a religion of birthright, blood lineage, and totemic identity. In Christ we are all children of God, adopted, not born. We don’t belong to earthly entities like blood, land, and language. Romans 9:3: “it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise.” As children of the promise we have no earthly origin and no earthly resting place. God had mercy on us and granted us entry in His Kingdom by our faith in Him. Who are we to reject His grace and revert to beliefs of blood sacrifice and birthright? Even though we are surrounded by guests who are bound by their blood and ethnic lineage to preserve their identities, we should never forget that we are free of such ties. This is the essence of our freedom. It is represented by the flag.
Flag Day is also the birthday of the American army. Our army was created to protect the flag and our freedom from blood lineage and all earthly material determinants of our identity, including terror attacks designed to alter our sense of self and our identity as a nation. As the only flag on earth that represents the freedom to choose one’s identity, it deserves unconditional honour, love, and dedication.
Every tragedy has a flawed but lovable hero. In this case it is neither the terrorist nor his victim, but rather the average American who let the flag of freedom drop to accommodate a passion for some material identity that was too dear and too precious to renounce. It is up to the individual psyche to identify the loss and to forgive the offender within with the grace God gave us in Christ.