The internet was buzzing this week with video of First Lady Michelle Obama apparently showing extreme disrespect to the American flag at a ceremony in honor of the victims of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. As police and firefighters fold the flag to the sound of marching bagpipers, a skeptical looking Mrs. Obama leans to her husband and says, “all this just for a flag.” She then purses her lips and shakes her head slightly as Mr. Obama nods.
Just for a flag? What she said is regrettable. Even with all her years being around those who hold high public office Mrs. Obama does not seem to understand the purpose and importance of ceremonies. They reaffirm the bonds of loyalty and fellowship that cement our national unity. Yes, at one level a flag is just a colorful piece of cloth. But it symbolizes much more. It is the emblem of our land and all its ideals. It has been present at every major event of any importance to the country, battles, celebrations, meetings, and the lunar landings. It is a symbol of unity that transcends party, faction and time. It is something uniquely and explicitly American. Men and women have fought and died for it. Our enemies hate us for it and burn it in the streets. All that should mean something.
Perhaps Mrs. Obama thinks that all the pomp and circumstance she experiences in her daily life has something to do with her, rather than the unofficial office she holds. If so she should disabuse herself of that notion quickly. The official gestures of respect shown to her are the same shown to any First Lady, and if she wasn’t married to the president she would be just another citizen. Ruffles and flourishes are not hers by right, but by coincidence of marriage. Yet this is the same woman who said she had never in her adult life been really proud of America before her husband ran for president, so it is no wonder she might dismiss a flag ceremony as just so much nonsense.
All this just for a flag? Has anyone said, “All this just for Michelle Obama?”