C. Fred Kleinknecht
Editor in Chief, Scottish Rite Journal
You sometimes wonder why it matters so much. Itís only a piece of cloth, printed in red and blue, with white showing through as stars and stripes.
It doesnít matter because of its intrinsic valueóa few dollars at most. It doesnít matter because of its design. You could not call it ornateóitís more nearly like an abstract design. (The Great Seal of the United States is far more decorative.) It doesnít matter because itís functional, for it isnít. The fabric isnít thick enough to keep you warm. It isnít waterproof enough to shelter you from the rain.
And yet it matters; it matters a great deal. It doesnít have the intrinsic value of a Jaguar, or a diamond, or even a Mickey Mouse wristwatch. And yet no car or diamond or timepiece ever inspired the warmth of affection, that sudden catch of the breath which most Americans feel at the sight of the flag of the United States flying free in the wind.
It is not as ornate or decorative as most of the architecture over which it flies, yet catch a glimpse of it, silhouetted against the sky at sunset, or in the glow of the first rays of dawn, and rare will be the man or woman untouched by its beauty. And although it is not functional, even the most practical and hardheaded of us treasure it more than the efficient machinery on which we so much depend. Somehow, we feel we would give up the machinery, if we had to, but not the flag. So why does it matter so much?
It matters not because of what it is, but because of what it means.
Of little intrinsic value itself, yet the flag symbolizes the protection of all intrinsic values. The economic and personal freedom it symbolizes assures us that our property is secure. No one, least of all the government, can arbitrarily take your property from you, and the full power of the government will fall upon anyone who does.
Not itself highly ornate, the flag not only guards the treasures of art and architecture of the past, but also guarantees that the creative spirit of mankind shall run free to create beauty and greatness for the future.
And it symbolizes the ultimate in functionality as well. It is as functional as the most modern factory, as practical as birth, as useful as farmland, because its shadow protects these things and so much more.
So the flag does matter. Not what it is, but what it meansónot for how it looks, but for how we see itónot for what it does, but for what we do in its name and under its protection.
Let us be proud of that flag and of what it symbolizes. It matters because we matter, because every man and woman and child in the country is precious, and what they produce by the sweat of their brow or the inspiration of their mind is precious. That, in the simplest terms, is the answer.
It matters because we matter.
It is precious because we are precious.
It is the symbol of our people. It matters because of you.