News From Terre Haute, Indiana

July 3, 2010

STEPHANIE SALTER: A little food for thought to go with the brats and beer

Stephanie Salter
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Hey. Everybody. Hey!

Could I get all of you to be quiet for a few minutes? Lower the fire on the grill? Get the kids out of the pool or the sprinkler? Maybe put down the beers and the Long Island Ice Teas?

I’m sorry to interrupt the big Fourth of July festivities — after all, it’s been a whole month since the last three-day national holiday — but I’d like to conduct an Independence Day poll.

It won’t take long. You can turn the music back up when we’re finished.

So, I guess the first question is about that flag you’ve got on display, assuming you have one hanging on the front of your house or flying from a pole or pillar. Since 9/11, millions of Americans display Old Glory every chance we get — although, ironically, not many of us do it on June 14, our official Flag Day.

Did you put up the flag today or do you mostly leave it out, 24/7?

If it’s the latter, do you take care to follow flag protocol regarding bad weather and lighting after sunset? What kind of shape is your flag in? Could it use a washing or dry cleaning? Is it torn or discolored from being whipped around and rained on for years?

If you put up the flag today, did you think anything special as you did? Did you ask any of your kids to help raise the flag? Did anybody say anything about “Independence Day”?

As you look at the stars-and-stripes, do you hope it conveys any message beyond, “This is what we do on the Fourth of July”?

Is your flag flying to show America’s enemies they can’t intimidate us? Did you hang it because you support the president or because  you hate his guts? Is it up because you believe in the United States of America or because you believe millions of your fellow citizens are threatening the country you love?

For whom have you publicly displayed the flag of the United States? Yourself and your family? The neighbors? Veterans? The young men and women in combat zones in Afghanistan and Iraq?

Speaking of those kids in uniform, are any of your immediate family members among them today? Any relatives at all? Close friends?

How many fingers and toes do you need to count all the active members of the U.S. military you personally know? To how many do you write, e-mail or send gifts?

Do you know about how many U.S. troops have died in Iraq and Afghanistan? Do you know how many troops are serving there now? Do you know what percentage of the U.S. population is on active military duty?

Do you have an idea of the monthly fiscal cost of maintaining the U.S. military in Afghanistan and Iraq? If so, do you think it’s sufficient, too little or too much?

If you don’t know, is it because you are not interested?

Here on July 4, 2010, do you consider the United States at war?

If so, do you think the civilian population should bear any of the burden of war, beyond those whose loved ones are on active duty? Can you specify any sacrifices you and your family have made or are making for the United States’ war effort?

Would you classify yourself as a patriot? What does that look like for you? Does it include voting? How do you and your family demonstrate your patriotism to one another and to other people?

Do you agree or disagree with the following statement?

“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

Would you vote to make the above statement a law or do you think it undermines the Constitution?

Do you know what the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution did? The 16th? Do you know how many times the Constitution has been amended in its history?

Do you know how much time passed between the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 and the adoption of the Constitution?

In our national anthem, we Americans refer to our country as “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Do you think that description — both free and brave — is accurate on this July 4th? Why or why not?

Can a civilian demonstrate bravery for his or her country? In what ways?

 Do you think of you and your family as free? If so, what aspects of your life reinforce that sense of freedom? Do you feel you have lost any of your freedoms? Can you specify?

All right. We’re almost finished. Just one more question:

In the average week, would you say you spend more time thinking and speaking about what is wrong with the United States or thinking and speaking about what is right with it? If it’s more “wrong,” do you believe that attitude fairly depicts the state of the nation, that more is wrong with it than right?

OK. That’s it. Crank up the tunes, stoke the fire on the grill, refresh the drinks, let the kids loose to play and get back to being an American on Independence Day.

Stephanie Salter can be reached at (812) 231-4229 or