There’s few songs that hit deeper than “Ragged Old Flag”.
America’s history is undoubtedly one of great highs and great lows. From its founding to this very day, passion and deeply held beliefs run through near every community, at times bringing us closer than ever and at others seemingly so far apart the other side is barely visible.
From the triumph’s of George Washington to the scars of the Civil War, debris of progress and tradition alike, honor overseas and scandal at home, the constant tug is something that every American has felt and will continue to feel for many years to come.
But it may just be the push and pull that causes the American Flag to wave strong overhead, reminding us of the ideals we are trying to achieve, the great strides we’ve made towards them, and road we have yet to walk.
Johnny Cash spoke exactly of this struggle back in 1974, when the country was going through yet another bout of turmoil.
Richard Nixon was in the midst of the Watergate Scandal. The Vietnam War had just ended, leaving behind untold damages, physical and psychological. Trust in leaders and even the country itself was at an all-time low.
And the Man In Black decided he had a few things to say.
Johnny Cash’s 47th career album, Ragged Old Flag, addressed many social and political issues in the iconic spoken word fashion he is known for.
“Don’t Go Near The Water” focused on an problem just starting to bubble up, the environment, but no song more directly addressed the divides and fights better than the title track.
It starts by telling the story of a first time visitor to a small town who strikes up a conversation with an old man outside the courthouse. After making a comment about the worn-out state of both the building and flag flying over it, the old man begins telling him exactly why the whole town is still proud of both, despite the bad they had ensured.
From the nation’s founding to the Alamo, Civil War, both World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam, the man walks the visitor down the path the flag gone to get here, not leaving out the bad and not overselling the good. He touches on its refusal both home and abroad and the lack of trust in government, but always finding a way to make it through with out tearing.
The final verse brings the whole story together, sending chills down the spine of most who listen.
“So we raise her up every morning
And we bring her down slow every night,
We don’t let her touch the ground,
And we fold her up right.
On second thought
I *do* like to brag
Cause I’m mighty proud of
That Ragged Old Flag”
The song was received with mixed appreciation at the time and even today lives with no shortage of controversy.
The 2020 Super Bowl Commercial which featured the song got a lot of backlash from those who believed it to be a direct shot at Colin Kaepernick.
The Man In Black spoke with conviction, honesty, and principle, and I for one want to live up to the example he set.