Resolved, that the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white: that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.
With those words in a June 14, 1777 resolution set forth by the Continental Congress, our nations flag was born.
It wasnt, however, until 100 more years had passed that the first unofficial Flag Day was celebrated in 1877. As subsequent celebrations continued to grow over the years, President Woodrow Wilson officially established Flag Day in 1916. Years later, in 1949, President Harry Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14th of every year as National Flag Day - and the tradition of marking the flags birthday was started.
This weekend, on its 226th birthday, Im happy to report the flag remains strong and synonymous with our nation as a beacon of freedom.
In fact, with the events of Sept. 11, 2001 and our nations ongoing war against terrorism, the recognition of Old Glory as a symbol of freedom in recent months has only grown. The images broadcast to the world during the battle to liberate Iraq serve as further evidence of this undeniable truth.
Who can forget that fateful day late in the military campaign when Baghdad fell before our very eyes? We watched on television as people who had toiled and suffered under the reign of Saddam Hussein, the modern day worlds most evil dictator, danced and celebrated their new-found freedom in the streets.
Then, as a monument of Saddam himself was being overtaken and toppled, a U.S. soldier placed Old Glory on top to mark the fall of the regime. The flags presence was only momentary, as it was rightfully replaced with the Iraqi flag that had been banished all those years by Saddams order. But the sentiment and heart of that soldier were in the right place.
While many in the national media suggested a sinister and imperialistic significance to this historic moment, most of us back home understood the true meaning. Simply put: the United States flag represents freedom and in many ways is a flag for all freedom-loving people; Iraq was finally free.
Nevertheless, thats the powerful symbolism of the flag originally set forth by our Continental Congress in 1777. While the shape and arrangement have been altered a little since then, and 37 more stars appear on it today (to represent the now 50 free United States), Old Glory continues to represent our nations values and traditions of freedom, equal opportunity, religious tolerance and goodwill towards other freedom-loving people like no other simple piece of cloth ever could.
For this reason, I voted in favor of a House measure earlier this month, the Desecration of the Flag Resolution (H.J. Resolution 4), that would constitutionally prohibit physical desecration of the flag. Its a constitutional amendment that has been introduced and successfully passed in every session of Congress since I was first sworn into Congress eight years ago.
Unfortunately, while the House has continually done its job to protect the flag, the U.S. Senate is another matter entirely.
See, despite the fact that all 50 states have passed resolutions calling on Congress to approve this proposed constitutional amendment, despite the fact that the House passes its bill with each session of Congress, and despite the fact that this continues to be supported by an overwhelming majority of the American public - despite all of this, the Senate has made the decision for eight years and counting that
Old Glory is just not important enough to stand up for legislatively.
Critics in the Senate and elsewhere point to the sanctity of the First Amendment and the right to free speech. This is true. But when this precious freedom, paid for with the blood of countless American men and women at home and on foreign soil, is used as a shield by those who would do harm to our people, our way of life, and the very symbol of that freedom - then the line has been crossed.
President Woodrow Wilson once said, The flag of the United States has not been created by rhetorical sentences in declarations of independence and in bills of rights. It has been created by the experience of a great people, and nothing is written upon it that has not been written by their life. It is the embodiment, not of a sentiment, but of a history.
I would hope this Flag Day weekend and this congressional session that the Senate would hear President Wilsons words and finally stand up for the most recognizable representation of freedom on earth, our own "embodiment... of a history" - the flag of the United States of America.
(U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., is an Evans resident.)
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