Learning proper respect

Published 10:11 pm Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Looking at the world today, it’s not hard to conclude that children as a group have not learned the importance of exhibiting the character trait of respect. Whether it’s respecting their elders, respecting the rights of others or respecting one another, finding examples of declining levels of respect among people of all ages is a simple matter of scanning the headlines of the day or catching any television or radio newscast.

It’s no longer a simple matter of young people not being raised to say “Yes sir” or “No ma’am.” Lack of respect shows itself in the violence that today’s culture accepts and even encourages, in the social interactions that people have, in the objectification of women that runs rampant on television and in the media and even in the simple problem of litter, which lines the roads even after decades of public service campaigns designed to combat it.

Sadly, American society’s problem with respect even extends to its treatment of the nation’s flag, a symbol of freedom, of sacrifice, of courage and honor and commitment. Look around next time you hear the National Anthem played and see how many people are facing the flag and saluting, either in the military fashion or with hands over hearts. Next time you hear the Pledge of Allegiance recited, notice how many people are similarly saluting, how many are saying the words, how many men have removed their hats. How many people keep tattered flags hanging on their porches or from their car windows? How often are those tattered flags retired with dignity — by fire — as called for under the U.S. Flag Code, instead of just being thrown away?

Email newsletter signup

It might be a losing proposition to hope that young people ever will be taught again to refer to their elders as “Sir” and “Ma’am,” but some local groups are working together to make sure that students learn a bit about how to properly respect Old Glory. In a program funded by the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, Procter and Gamble and the King’s Fork Ruritan Club, members of the King’s Fork Woman’s Club and an Eagle Scout from Boy Scout Troop 1 in Suffolk were at Mount Zion Elementary School this week to tell students about the proper way to show respect for the flag, about its symbolism and about how it should be displayed.

Respect for the flag might seem a minor issue, but if there’s anywhere that Americans should choose to draw a line in the sand in the fight to restore respect to their society, this is it. At the very least, as a symbol of the freedom that allows Americans of all ages to act disrespectfully (though not violently or illegally) toward one another, the American flag deserves its due regard from us all.