In the 1950s, the father of a friend of mine worked as a consultant to the Government of Ghana. The president at the time was Kwame Nkrumah. My friend attended a local school. Every morning started with a solemn flag-raising, the oath of allegiance to Ghana, the anthem and chants of “Nkrumah is next to God, Nkrumah can do no wrong.”
Oaths and chants are rarely required. If they are, once is more than enough. To insist on it each time indicates that someone, somewhere doesn’t trust you or thinks you might forget.
Fine training for fine young minds.
He told me this story when we were at school and about 14 years old. I was horrified – the stuff of Third World / Iron Curtain Dictators. I suppose that it is OK in time of war to have the odd patriotic song… but not every morning and not when the enemy is still at home watching TV.
I remember seeing my first flag burning – it was a US flag at a Vietnam protest shown on TV – my only thought was “Proof, if proof were needed, that flags dipped in paraffin (kerosene) burn.” I also remember the discussions of this “outrageous act” that followed. It seemed to me that I’d missed something – “Hello! It was a flag, people, there’s thousands more where that came from.”
Someone’ll fill in the detail or correct me, but I seem to think that after various protesters were beaten and dragged off by uniformed men, it was found that there is no offence of burning a flag.
What there is, is a general convention that you are required to become upset when someone sets fire to a flag.
I don’t know when or where it started but it probably comes from carrying the idol of the local god to war, and, as losing a god was pretty bad, this became the carrying of a symbol of the god and then the military defending a flag/standard/etc. and, as their primitive ancestors, venerating it not only as a symbol of the power it depicted, but believing it to be the power it depicted.
As I say: fine when you are at war – defend a flag by all means, the convention encourages futile gestures - posthumous medals all round, hero’s funeral, place in history. We Brits did it in every country worth mentioning and several that are not.
As the German army advanced towards Moscow, Stalin gave orders that anyone who surrendered would be shot. He should have given them each a flag and told them “Defend it to the last!” it would have had the same effect but it puts the honour of the holder of the flag at stake, which is probably more powerful that threatening to shoot him: because of the convention, people are happy to die in great honour... but they are just as dead.
It is a pity that this guy was ejected. He is probably the only one who knew the implications and spirit of the Oath of Allegiance without having to be retrained in it at each meeting.