Last weekend I was compelled to lower our flag to honor a man who served so well.
In watching the coverage of Sen. John McCain’s life last Sunday afternoon, the television backdrop of flags at half-mast in Washington, D.C., penetrated my consciousness. Before fully realizing why, I looked out the window to our hazy, wet backyard: The flag was flying proudly at the top of our own flagpole. I don’t think a conscious decision was made on my part, rather I was simply compelled to get up at that moment.
Out in the garage, I put on a stocking cap and raincoat and made my way through the rain to lower my family’s flag halfway down the pole. Even as I squinted up into the misty sky and grappled with the rope, I marveled at the obligation I felt by the sheer life force of this man — the actions he took, the burdens he bore, the strength he showed — to perform this simple act of memoriam. I’d thought about lowering the flag for others, maybe even done it once or twice, but this time there was no question, no delayed thought process, no wavering.
Earlier that day, I had helped celebrate a friend’s “big” birthday – one of those milestones. After our toast, he delivered some surprisingly impassioned remarks for such a casual celebration. He spoke to the talent and skills represented in us, his friends and family, and the need for us to continue giving these gifts to our community and world. I was impressed at his emphasis on the importance of applying ourselves and our aptitudes to the needs of others throughout our lifetime.
My Democratic friend’s call to action struck me as just the kind of “ask” Republican Sen. McCain surely made at just such gatherings. In fact, probably something he made at many an event, and certainly something he instilled in his friends and family. It starts with the belief in doing what is necessary and right. So even as we lower the flags, McCain’s legacy requires us to raise the bar. To step up.
For me, it started with that relatively small step to honor a man’s legacy. Then, I began marveling at the sameness of my Democratic friend’s message and my Republican hero’s lifetime of doing everything that message asked. I realized I needed to step out of my comfort zone and write about this, to echo that McCain, like my friend, asked each of us to continue the good fight. The struggle for equality and fair, humane treatment for people everywhere. The need to work together, side by side — Democrats, Republicans, Independents and everyone in between — to recognize and insert a moral code into everything we do, and to do more of it.
McCain wasn’t perfect. It’s actually what makes him such a marvelous standard-bearer of how an imperfect human can push on with integrity and credibility by publicly recognizing his own shortcomings and then striving to do better. My friend isn’t perfect, either, but I’ve never doubted his desire to serve and step up for his community and country.
Last weekend, I was compelled to lower our flag to honor a man who served so well. And I also heard what my friend said and took it to heart, turning it over and over in my mind. Today, my convictions are as clear as the freshly rain-washed air in Seattle. I feel called to action by the necessity to do more to help others. I have to speak out. It’s why I’m writing this piece before doing anything else today. I have things to say and contributions to make. So do you. Let’s get going together.