|EDINBURG, June 9 - Friday, 14 June, is “Flag Day,” a day dedicated to honor our flag and all it is supposed to stand for. Sadly, many people are oblivious to the purpose of the day.
Although many people display our flag, most do not know how to display it properly, and display it in an ultimately disrespectful manner.
Improper display is as great among the so-called “super” patriotic as among the general population, and it is saddening to see well intentioned people display the flag in ways that are ultimately disrespectful it.
The crassest examples of disrespect of the flag are from businesses. Compounding the offense, their disrespect veritably explodes on patriotic holidays - Memorial Day, Flag Day, the 4th of July, Labor Day, Veterans’ Day. Businesses can display flags as long as they are displayed properly and are not part of an advertisement.
As we well know, there is no act too vile for most capitalists if they can make a buck by it. So we should not be surprised they fall all over themselves to desecrate the flag.
One company, intlgiftshop.com, even markets the flag as a doormat so people like George W. Bush can wipe their feet on the flag of the United States of American. But as President, he desecrated this nation, so desecrating our flag should come as no surprise.
Many readers may be wondering what I am referring to. Simple. Go to any of several websites that discuss flag etiquette - how to display, care for, and dispose of our nation’s flag. Among the things you will find in the “Flag Code,” Title 4 of the United States Code (4 U.S.C. § 1 et seq) , is a statement the flag never should be used for purposes of crass hucksterism; i.e., Section 8i of the Flag Code reads, "The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever."
In fact, the Flag Code originally was written specifically because of businesses trying to hawk their wares by displaying the flag in advertisements or on packaging. Think of how often you see this.
As a child, I always was a little bothered by flag draped advertising. At the time, I did not know there was a Flag Code; but I understood respect and disrespect. I was raised to love this country, and seeing disrespect for the flag bothered me. It still does.
Someone might ask, “but isn’t this just a ‘replica’ of the flag, not actually the flag?” That’s amusing, especially when people who defend desecration of the flag in newspapers, magazines, doormats, and numerous other kinds of advertising get hotter mad as hell when they see someone wearing the flag as a garment - shirt or swim suit made out of the flag, or plastered on the seat of someone’s pants.
The Flag Code says, with two exceptions, the American flag is not to be worn as apparel. First, military personnel and first responders, such as police and firemen, may wear a flag patch as a part of their uniform. A flag on athletic uniforms is disrespectful of the flag.
Second, a flag pin may be worn provided it is worn on the left chest over one’s heart. Any other wearing of the flag is a violation of the Flag Code and is disrespectful of the flag.
Of course super “patriots” love to make their own little exceptions to the appropriate and respectful display of the flag. So they pick and choose which “replicas” of the flag are okay, and which are not okay to display.
But there is a problem. The Flag Code specifically states a flag is anything "by which the average person seeing the same without deliberation may believe the same to represent the flag."
Thus, “replicas” of a flag printed in the newspaper, or a T-shirt or tie, are flags. To use a flag in advertising, to use a flag in apparel, to use the flag as a doormat is disrespecting the flag.
After 9-11, flying flags from one’s car became a popular fad, especially among chest thumping “super patriots” - what blatant disrespect for the flag! For one, the flags quickly were shredded; but remained attached to the car though tattered.
Also, NOBODY mounted the flag properly. They almost always were over a door somewhere along the middle of the car, or displayed behind the cab in pickup trucks. More often than not, they were mounted on the left hand (driver’s) side.
When mounted on a vehicle, the flag is to be mounted on the right front of the car from the wheel well to the front bumper, not on the left hand side beside or behind the driver.
Good luck trying to talk to one of these “super patriots” about their disrespect for our flag.
Historically, the flag is lowered when it is raining and at night, and taken inside. With the development of “all weather flags,” it now is permissible to display the flag in all weather, and throughout the night.
However, at night, the flag should be illuminated so it easily can be seen by passersby. A homeowner or business leaving their flag out at night without lighting it is disrespecting the flag.
The flag never should be allowed to touch the ground. If it does accidentally, it should be raised immediately; and any soiling cleaned off. If a flag becomes soiled over time, it should be cleaned - warm soapy water usually will suffice.
When a flag becomes faded or tattered, it should be retired.
The next time you drive around town, look closely at flags being flown. Fierce winds in the Valley are hard on flags. How many tattered flags do you see? If your count is close to mine, it will be about half. Amazingly, sometimes even flags flying over government, even Federal buildings, fly for weeks though torn and tattered. These flags should be taken down and repaired or retired.
The flag never should be used as a rug or a doormat to be stepped on by people who have no respect.
The flag never should be written on, or marked on. Yet President George Bush believes flags are neat things to wipe his feet on and autograph. He respects neither this country nor one of our nation’s most sacred symbols.
Little wrong-wing Super “patriotic” goose-steppers love to attack those who dare to burn the American flag. Fire, historically, has been a literal and symbolic form of purification. Burning the flag is an attempt at symbolic purification of the nation.
The Flag Code does not say it is okay to burn the American flag in protest; but the Flag Code does say, when a flag has become worn out, it is to be Retired. The proper manner to retire a worn out flag, historically, has been to burn it.
With the advent of nylon flags, that has changed because burning nylon produces toxic fumes. Nylon flags should be recycled--not buried or thrown in a garbage can. The American Legion participates in a nylon flag recycling program. Worn flags are reduced to nylon fiber then used exclusively to make new flags.
Thus a nylon flag never actually dies, but becomes immortal with its rebirth. Sounds pretty good to me.
Learn flag etiquette. Display your flag properly, respectfully, and PROUDLY. Happy Flag Day!
Samuel Freeman is a political science professor based in the Rio Grande Valley. His “Left is Right” columns appear regularly in the Guardian.