Veteran’s Day

Watch this oil painting of a roadside American flag come to life in about 1 minute (time lapse)

My oil painting is of a roadside American flag on the only way to/from Tybee Island, Georgia. Police officers rescued it from hurricane flood waters because they knew how much it would mean to evacuees to see it when they returned, not knowing if they still had a house left, but always a home.

One’s homeland flag means something different to each individual, but for many it is a very powerful symbol that captures how our hearts feel about the health, safety, and prosperity of our homeland, and especially the well being of those people we love. My grandfather was a decorated World War II veteran. My father served two tours in the Vietnam War, then died from cancer when he was thirty-seven years old. My husband served in the Army, patrolling the E/W German border shortly before the fall of the wall, and then shortly afterward. Then he was deployed to Iraq. All three of these men believed that they were fighting against evil, communism or dictatorship, and tyranny “over there”, so that these oppressive, enslaving, and abhorrent regimes wouldn’t take over HERE. But of course, lust for power respects no boundaries, and it was our own government who is/was involved in so many horrible things.

They gave my mom a folded American flag at Dad’s memorial service. When people destroy or protest the flag, it feels like a desecration of not just a flag, but of a grave, regardless of the intentions behind the statement. It is something I feel deeply, as do many other people. I paint the flag often, not because I am loyal to politicians or to a fantasy belief in a perfect nation, but because I am grateful for the ground beneath my feet and the people who came before me. I wish the same for all persons, everywhere in the world. I’ve lived in Germany and in Ireland, and when I lived in those lands, I respected the flags of my temporary homes. I loved those people and places too. I wanted to belong, and to be part of the community in which I lived. I believe I could feel this way wherever God plants me.

It was so wonderful to be with the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, when so many had the Irish flag painted on their faces and waved it proudly. Never did I feel as if anyone was “superior”, but merely happy and celebratory. There was a kinship with everyone at the parade that day, as if for a few moments we were family. This is what it means to feel the warmth of a nation’s flag.

I’ve never met a veteran who served to defend politicians, governments, agendas, or causes (not directly or primarily). They all have said the same: they do it for those they love, for those at home. They believe that their homeland is meant to be safe and free for the children of the future. And they believe so strongly in the sovereignty of humanity that they’ll defend it with their lives. For this, we honor them.

Whatever deception has led to wars for profit, crimes against humanity, and great evil, is not the burden of those who simply yearn to be free, and want to protect their homelands, communities, and families. It is my wish that all wars would end, and no one would ever again receive a memorial folded flag. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if instead, all flags in all sovereign nations were merely celebratory colors, clutched in the tiny joyful hands of children to wave at parades? What a wonderful world that would be.

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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All for a Flag

Watch me paint this flag on Tybee Island, Georgia

in one 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."
- from the book "50 Oil Paintings Inspired by Savannah, Georgia" by artist Natalie Buske Thomas

All that for a flag? Why would the police officers go through so much trouble to rescue a piece of cloth? Why would anyone risk their safety for a flag? Why would anyone die for a flag? Asking this question will yield many different answers. It depends heavily on who you ask, and what that person is feeling at that particular point in time.

A flag usually stands for something- an organization, a religion, a political party, a mission or cause, a town, a state, a nation, a global entity, or a military unit. But that’s just what the flag literally represents. What it means to individual persons can be much harder to define. 

Often, the feelings attached to a particular flag are strongly rooted by things that may have little attachment to the official meaning of that flag. If the organization that is represented by a flag operates with levels of secrecy, corruption, or even elements of pure evil, does the flag now mean those things? That’s what critics, protesters, and competitors/enemies of that organization say. But those who live under these flags likely believe that the corrupt elements don’t represent them; either by the flag or in any other manner.

When my dad died, they gave Mom a folded flag. He served two tours in the Vietnam War and got cancer when he was in his 20s. He died from it at age 37. He was not there when I was born, as he was overseas and didn’t learn of my birth until three days later. He was not there when I grew up, as he was dead. The folded flag was an acknowledgement of his sacrifice.

When our flag is protested against, trampled, or burned, I feel deeply offended. The flag is a memorial symbol to many of us. There is no respect for that, and yet we are meant to respect the causes that supposedly justify such malice and disrespect? How is it privileged to have no father? It is not. I owe no one anything, and they owe me nothing. But when they disrespect me in acts of hatred and destruction, I will feel something. It is my right to feel authentic emotions. I will never be disloyal to the memory of my father. No cause can sway me.

As people study wars for profit and evil reasons, nothing will change the truth of what was in the hearts of the young men who served. My father believed that they were fighting against communism, tyranny, and dangers to the people they loved at home, and to the human race worldwide. He was intensely loyal to religious, creative, and vocational freedom for all people, regardless of country of origin, race, culture, or gender. He saw government oppression as a big threat, and he therefore believed that serving in the military was his duty as a man, as a husband, as a son, as a brother, and as a father.

I have always had a jaded and cynical view of government. I have never found the answer to my questions to be satisfactory. Even as a young child I wondered, “was EVERYthing tried before it was decided that the ONLY way to resolve this was to kill people? (in war)”. Why was it the only way? Why couldn’t smart people figure out other ways? Why aren’t smarter people ruling over us if the best that they can come up with is to send our fathers to wars? But even after growing up without a father, I have remained loyal to that flag, the flag that was folded, the flag that still waves.

Because the flag still stands for freedom, though they have taken much of that away. The flag still stands for those who have loved their families and wanted to serve- whether in the military, the police force, as a first-responder, or a front line worker. Whenever someone is willing to put their own health and safety at risk to be of service to their communities, they honor the spirit of the flag as it stands. I’m of course not just talking about Americans. I’ve lived outside of the United States and the people of those countries loved their homeland and their families with the same passion.

The evils of one do not cancel the good motives of another. It is not wrong to love a flag that symbolizes the qualities we admire in humanity, and the values we wish upon the world. If we see loyalty, selflessness, courage, and freedom represented by familiar colors, raised high or clutched by a tiny wooden stick in a young child’s waving hand, we see the best in each other. When we wish goodness and prosperity for all people, beginning at home and spreading worldwide, we may feel optimism when we see others raise our flag in solidarity with our good intentions for humankind.

Those who want to tell us that our hearts are not noble, and we have wrong thoughts or wrong intentions, are lying. They do not know the heart of man. They do not have this power. Hatred toward a flag is propaganda, as is forced loyalty toward one. Authentic feelings toward symbols and flags are complicated, often based on a complex series of lifelong experiences that make each of us unique, which is why we may feel surprisingly emotional when someone outside of our homeland raises “our” flag to show support or sympathy for the people of our homeland during times of celebration or tragedy.

I’ve seen responses to videos from countries all over the world, by people outside of those homelands. Whenever the people rise up in common cause to support, celebrate, or defend the values they hold dear, it is universally sentimental and passionately stirring. The sight of people singing and raising their flags can bring tears, even to the onlookers who see the videos from halfway around the globe. “We the People”, regardless of national origin, recognize selflessness and courage, loyalty and love… and it is both common and natural to feel unity when we see these beautiful qualities in fellow humans.

Never allow political agendas, “activists”, or any other motivated entity to poison what you know is true and good. If you feel nothing but empathy, compassion, and connection to fellow humans, perhaps the sight of a happy person waving a flag doesn’t incite anger or malice in you. Perhaps it stirs up sentiment, thoughtfulness, a bit of sadness maybe… possibly we feel melancholic, and wistful, if only the nostalgia of what people once believed was the reality they were sold… we may feel a complex array of emotions, but at the core, we likely feel an authentic desire that our fellow humans have the right to the pursuit of happiness. When we see our flags waving in the wind, we may see freedom.

We are not responsible for the ills of mankind, nor are we infallible. We are neither accountable for the choices of others, nor are we tasked to control others. When the world operates with oppression and commits crimes against humanity, it does so without the power to cancel, nullify, or otherwise erase from existence the original pure intentions of the people who simply hoped for a reality that wasn’t distorted or destroyed by powerful forces. History can hide what is real, but the truth never really goes away. Good people are not bad because others label them so. Bad people are not good because others promote them as such.

Give yourself permission to honor the fallen, regardless of which date on the calendar is designated for this. Give yourself permission to feel hope at the sight of a flag. Give yourself permission to refuse to condemn yourself for the evils of others. Raise your flag.

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BAD DAY

Well, there must have been a bad moon a’rising because today was a horrible day. The close on our house was cancelled, and then thankfully

Read More »

Happy Day!

Today we had the opportunity to bring the kids to the house we’ll be closing on. Until now, they’d only seen the pictures and video.

Read More »

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