The Flag was Still There

Watch me paint “Flag on Tybee Island” in 1 minute (time lapse)

“This is a special roadside American flag on the only way to/from Tybee Island. It was saved from flood waters by police officers after Hurricane Irma, on the anniversary of 9/11 known as Patriots Day. The flag, attached to driftwood, had been a familiar landmark on that stretch of Highway 80 since the 1980’s. The officers knew that evacuees returning home after Hurricane Irma would find their beloved flag to be a comforting sight. They were especially grateful to residents who took care of the weary officers with coffee and encouragement, while first responders were working 12 hour shifts before and after the storm.

I had no idea of the history of this roadside flag when I was inspired to paint it. All I saw was our homeland’s flag waving on that stretch of highway, and I was stirred with emotion. I imagined someone had put that there with love and passion for our country and our people. It was only later that I learned about the story behind this flag. Now it is even more special and I’m happy to have painted it.”

-from book “50 Oil Paintings Inspired by Savannah, Georgia” by artist Natalie Buske Thomas

I’ve lived and traveled in other countries, and while in those nations I enjoyed making dear friends and embracing their flags, customs, and shared values for good food, good friends, and the passion people have for their homes. The people are not the government. Citizens love their flags because they love their homes and their families, their culture and their lives. This is healthy and normal. 

If we hate where our spirits reside, we must make plans to leave that space. Malice toward an entire nation for the sins of few, some, or even many- past, present, or future- is hatred nonetheless. There is no valid justification to hate others. “Activism” does not provide an excuse to hurt people. Change does not require disrespect, destruction, criminal actions, and frothing contempt.

Never take on shame that doesn’t belong to you. The evils of powerful governments are not ours to bear, nor must we destroy our history in order to atone for the wrongs. Communism, fascism, and totalitarianism are not compassionate, but enslaving. Enjoy your home, where your feet are planted. Never let anyone steal your joy. You were born in the right place, at the right time. Wave your homeland’s flag without guilt or fear.

Humanity has its good and bad, but always striving to be better is about creation, not destruction. It is good to love our communities, our homes. We can’t solve all of the world’s problems, but we can be good stewards of the place we live. We can love who we are, so that we may love others. We can appreciate our past so that we may let go of it, live fully in the present, and have hope for the future.

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