The Taliban, the US, and the Gadsden Flag

This morning I raised the US flag to full staff. It had been lowered in honor of military and civilian victims killed in a terrorist attack as the US left Afghanistan. At work the other day, some co-workers and I were talking about our departure from the region. We all agreed that we’re no mid-east political emissaries. We’re computer fix-it people, not foreign policy experts. But all of us, regardless of political stripe, felt like we exited poorly. Leaving US citizens there, leaving US war materiel there to be plundered, it just doesn’t seem like the wise thing to do. If doesn’t feel like the right thing to do. And yet, that’s the call the US government made.

As I raised Ol’ Glory to her full height, I clipped the Gadsden flag onto the pole below her. Recently, the Gadsden flag has been flown by alt right groups more as a symbol of hate and anarchy. I don’t ascribe to those ideals. Instead, I prefer the historical view of what that flag means. Here’s what Ben Franklin said about the snake iconography:

“[The rattle-snake’s] eye excelled in brightness, that of any other animal, and that she has no eye-lids. She may therefore be esteemed an emblem of vigilance. She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage. As if anxious to prevent all pretensions of quarrelling with her, the weapons with which nature has furnished her, she conceals in the roof of her mouth, so that, to those who are unacquainted with her, she appears to be a most defenseless animal; and even when those weapons are shewn and extended for her defence, they appear weak and contemptible; but their wounds however small, are decisive and fatal. Conscious of this, she never wounds till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of treading on her.

Was I wrong, Sir, in thinking this a strong picture of the temper and conduct of America? The poison of her teeth is the necessary means of digesting her food, and at the same time is certain destruction to her enemies. This may be understood to intimate that those things which are destructive to our enemies, may be to us not only harmless, but absolutely necessary to our existence …
‘Tis curious and amazing to observe how distinct and independent of each other the rattles of this animal are, and yet how firmly they are united together, so as never to be separated but by breaking them to pieces. One of those rattles singly, is incapable of producing sound, but the ringing of thirteen together, is sufficient to alarm the boldest man living.”

“The Rattlesnake tells the Story” – Journal of the American Revolution (allthingsliberty.com)

And so the Gadsden flag flies over #downtownspruceheadamerica not as a symbol of hate. I’m not proclaiming allegiance to any former president. Instead, I’m doing my little symbolic act that the Taliban will never see (but a symbolic act that is good for my soul). I’m trying to say “I don’t agree with how the US did this. And Taliban, you think you’ve won. And by our actions, it sure does seem like you won. But here in this house, and many other places in the US, the actions of our government don’t speak for the people of the United States. Don’t think this one action is how we Americans do things. Don’t feel empowered. Don’t tread on us.”

Some thoughts on Lent

For the past few years I’ve participated in some form of Lenten “fast.” While my church tradition (Baptist) doesn’t usually participate in Lent, I’ve found it a good spiritual discipline. I use it in two ways: 1) I give up something I like in an effort to spark attention towards more spiritually weighty matters, and 2) I try to pick up a good habit by spending the time normally taken up by item 1 with something better. For example, one year I gave up secular music* and podcasts. I didn’t listen to jazz or pop music, only to Christian music. I didn’t listen to Click and Clack or the Modern Drummer podcast or any of my other normal podcasts. I listened only to Christian podcasts. So I let go of something I liked, and replaced it with something more spiritually substantial.

Lent starts this Wednesday, and I’m considering what to do this year. As I contemplate, the following scriptures keep coming to mind.

  1. A sacrifice must cost you something. You can’t give up something you don’t care about, and expect it to bring you a heightened spiritual awareness. I don’t normally drink alcohol. Therefore, abstaining from alcohol isn’t going to cost me anything. No big whoop. There will be no craving, and therefore nothing to trigger my brain; I can’t say “Man I wish I could have a beer, but I can’t so I’ll pray instead” because I’m not going to be wishing for beer. It’s not something I care about, so giving it up will be of no value. “I can’t offer the LORD my God a sacrifice that cost me nothing.” (2 Sam. 24:24)
  2. Make sure your Lenten fast, though sacrificial, is attainable. “It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it.” (Ecclesiastes 5:5) Consider carefully what you say to God you will do. I’ve never given up coffee for Lent. Since losing over 100lbs 10 or so years ago, coffee has become my drink of choice: no calories. I can’t imagine not drinking coffee for over a month. I don’t want to make a promise I can’t keep. I shan’t be giving up coffee this year. Perhaps some year I’ll be spiritually strong enough to do it. Until then, I’ll choose to abstain from something that “hurts,” but I won’t pick something that I think is going to cause me to stumble in my vow.
  3. Don’t make a big deal about your fast. See Matthew 6:16 and following verses. Don’t try to impress people with your piety. Don’t make a show of it. When I’m fasting, usually no one knows by me and God. In fact, I don’t even usually tell my wife about what I’m up to. As you consider your Lenten fast, think about doing it in such a way that’s private in an effort to keep your pride in check. Or maybe it’s just me that struggles with pride. 😉

*As a musician, I gave myself a specific out clause on my music fast. If there was a gig I had to play, and I had to learn music I didn’t know, I allowed myself to listen to those particular songs for the sake of my livelihood. Other than that limited example, it was all Christian music and spiritual podcasts.

Flags of the Revolution Part V (Part, the Last)

IMG_3057OK, I’ve got one more historical flag left in my collection that relates to the Revolution. It’s the Gadsden flag. Some people know it as the “Snake” flag, or the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag. General Gadsden was the designer of the flag. Congress appointed some Marines to go along with Washington’s Navy (see the Washingston’s Cruisers flag), and those Marines carried this flag. It flies today in downtown Spruce Head America, and this flag is a particular favorite of Mrs. Batty.

Flags of the Revolution, the Fourth (the IVth), The Taunton Flag

We talked briefly about ensigns yesterday. A ensign is a flag flown on ships used toIMG_3051 show the nation of origin. At the time of the revolution, the British used an ensign of the Union Jack as the canton, and a field of red. It was also known as Queen Anne’s flag, and when Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, it was under this flag. Apparently, in Taunton Massachusetts in 1774, and band from the Sons of Liberty raised a flag based on the British ensign with the words “Liberty and Union” sewed on it.

To me, this solidifies the idea the patriots weren’t just about breaking the noose of British authority. Yes, they wanted liberty, but they wanted it within the union of a British colony. I don’t think independence was the first thing on their mind; it was equality. Had it been given them, I think we might be seeing a much different globe today.

I like to fly the Taunton flag a lot, for the same reasons I like to fly Frankin’s “Join or Die.” We as Americans seem so divided. I appeal to heaven that we would have both liberty and union.

Flags of the Revolution, Day III


IMG_3023“Appealing to Heaven for the justice of our cause, we determine to die or be free.”
The Provincial Congress of Massachusetts

The Pine Tree flag, or as I know it, Washington’s Cruisers Flag, was a popular symbol during the revolution, especially in New England. The pine tree was used in flags in New England for over 100 years before the revolution. It was part of the ensign for ships in New England, and the pine tree was used in the flag that flew over Bunker Hill.

On Sundays, I like to fly a flag that represents my Christian faith. Usually, that means the Christian flag. Sometimes, though, when I feel like I really want God to intervene for the sake of our country, I’ll fly Washington’s Cruisers flag as a way to offer an appeal to heaven. Today, that flag flies over downtown Spruce Head America.

Flags of the Revolution Day II

IMG_3013When I bought Spruce Head House, I wanted to continue the flag flying tradition of my father. His father had a flag pole, and I suppose that’s why he had one installed on his property. As I was looking for secondary flags to fly with Ol’ Glory, I happened upon the Sons of Liberty flag. Most of what they stood for seemed to fit with the political leanings of me and wife, and so I bought “her” a Sons of Liberty flag as a gift.

In reality, one might consider The Sons a group of toughs; a gang. While they were a gang for liberty, and so are generally accepted as patriots, their methods were pretty strong arm. The Boston Tea Party was a Sons stunt. Tarring and feathering was done, as well as general beating of someone Brit loyalist who dared cross paths with them. So while I might not agree with their tactics, I agree with their ideals. For those reasons, the Rebellious Stripes fly over downtown Spruce Head America today.

History of the Revolution Through Flags, Day 1 Part II

017OK, technically Ben Frankin’s “Join or Die” cartoon didn’t start off as a flag. And, it didn’t even start off during the Revolution. It predates the revolution, actually. During the time of the Revolution, though, it came back into favor as a cartoon, signifying that if the colonies were going to defeat the British, they would have to stay united.

In our current times, I fly this flag with frequency. As a nation, we’re so divided. “Don’t think people should own an AR-15? You’re not welcome in my restaurant.” “Don’t agree with who I want for president? Unfriend me from Facebook.” Apparently, some people can’t even be friends with someone who doesn’t share their viewpoint. Not very united.

Anyway, today under the Betsy Ross flag, you’ll find Ben’s cartoon-cum-flag in downtown Spruce Head America.