From Jim O'Brien
November 04, 2016

Hi Friend,

The Price of a Flag

I was walking the dogs, or the granddogs, since we were dog sitting while the kids were on a business trip, when I noticed an older lady making her way to the mail box. A smile was noticeable beneath the grey hair and I heard a cheery greeting directed more at the dogs than me. So I paused to introduce Winston and Lincoln who seemed instinctively to recognize the need to be uncharacteristically docile while in her presence.

We talked-or rather I listened as her words rolled out at last realizing their search for a human ear. Her husband died last year after 57 years of marriage. Her house was more noticeable because of a Marine flag hanging from a pole in the front yard.

She was Chinese and grew up in on the Island of Java, a Dutch speaking section of Indonesia, during WWII. She told me that she was a little girl when the Japanese invaded and her dad died in 1944.

"Did he die in the war?" I asked.

By way of explanation she told me the Japanese did not allow them to own a radio. "Everyone was required to turn them in but dad owned three radios!" she said holding up the same number of fingers. This last bit of information was delivered with a mischievous smile that celebrated her spirit of independence.

"It was '44 and dad was the first to know that the Americans were coming to set us free because he listened to Voice of America on the radio," she said. Anticipating rescue from their captors her dad had searched for an American flag but there was none. So they made their own, her mother retrieving "old pillow cases to make thirteen stripes of red and white cloth and forty-eight stars" she recounted. My mind went to a family hiding in their small house hovering over a primitive flag that caused such joy the memory was still with her 68 years later.

When the flag was finished they hid it on a high shelf in the bathroom.

But the war lasted another year and someone turned her dad in to the authorities. One day the soldiers arrived at their front door while her dad was at work. Her mother told her to go meet him when he arrived on the streetcar and warn him that the police were there to arrest him.

"I was only nine-years-old," she said, "but I found him and he stayed on the streetcar. I watched him as he passed back and forth waiting for the police to leave. But eventually he had to come home or they would have arrested my mother."

So her dad was taken to jail. Eventually they were called to retrieve his dead body.

All this information was given without the slightest bit of self-pity. Her face never lacked for a smile. There was a sense of triumph in her voice.

I resumed my walk with the dogs, intrigued by the irony of freedom. It is a thing to marvel that a Chinese man living in Indonesia attempting to escape from under the boot of captors would buy an American flag with the cost of his life. Yet in America there are those who burn it, spit on it or ridicule those who wear it as a lapel ornament.

The Apostle Paul discovered that a man did not become a Christian by being born a Jew. Americans are learning that people do not become free by being born in America.

The Spirit of God and the spirit of freedom share a common element. They must be born in the heart of a man.

Until next time,

Jim O'Brien