The most recognized symbol of the United States is the U.S. Flag. Many citizens, myself included, love and hold an almost sacred respect for our flag. But as a nation, as a people, do we truly respect our flag? Or is that respect little more than pretense? Do many of us see it as little more than a prop to be used and, frankly, abused for some economic or ideological end?

On 14 June 1777, the Second Continental Congress designated a flag of 13 alternating red and white stripes, with 13 stars in a blue field in the upper left quadrant to be the national Flag of the United States of America. As new States were brought into the Union, stars were added to the blue field, with the 13 red and white stripes remaining to signify the first 13 States of our great nation.

Although various localities and States adopted days of observance and respect for our flag, it was not until 1916 that President Woodrow Wilson established 14 June as Flag Day to commemorate the birth of our national flag. It was, and remains, a day for observance of and respect for our great nation’s flag. Although not a national holiday, some States have passed laws making Flag Day a State holiday.  

During the Civil War, our flag frequently was carried into battle. A young boy, too young to fight, would carry the flag. In a charge, the flag would be at the forefront of the charge. If, as happened very often, they flag boy was wounded or killed, someone would swoop in immediately to catch the flag before it hit the ground. Our flag was revered and respected so greatly men would die rather than see our flag soiled by touching the ground.

On 22 June 1942, the U.S. Congress passed the Flag Code—Title 4 of the United States Code (4 U.S.C. § 1 et seq)—which can be found at https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/USCODE-2011-title4/html/USCODE-2011-title4-chap1.htm. The Flag Code codifies how to display our flag correctly and respectfully, and also how our flag should not be displayed or used. Please go online and read the Flag Code for yourself.

Throughout the Rio Grande Valley, we see many displays of our flag. Many, if not most, times, our flag is displayed improperly. A soiled flag immediately should be cleaned. A faded, tattered or torn flag should be retired. “Retired” does not mean dumping our flag in a trash can. If it is a cotton flag, it should be burned in a respectful manner.  

A nylon flag never should be burned because of the toxic fumes emitted. Instead, it should be taken to an American Legion post, which collects retired nylon flags, and sends them to be shredded into nylon fiber that then is used to make a new flag. In this respect, our flag never dies but is reborn. Perfect!

The Flag Code specifies flags should be retired when they begin to fade. If a flag is torn, it should be repaired or retired; but never allowed to fly while faded, tattered or torn. Sadly, about half of the flags displayed on homes in the Valley either are faded, tattered, torn, or some combination of the three as demonstrated by the photographs accompanying this column.

Those flying these flags would have us believe they are patriotic and they respect our flag. But flying a soiled, damaged or worn out flag is profoundly disrespectful of our flag. One must ask whether theirs is a false patriotism. One might say this is too harsh, that they merely are ignorant. Really? A faded, tattered, torn flag is on their front porch or flying from a pole in their front yard. They see it every day. They see it is worn out. And they do nothing?

How can they look at that faded, tattered, torn flag every day and not be pained? Or are they so completely indifferent to our flag they don’t even notice? What kind of respect; what kind of patriotism; what kind of love of our flag is that? How is that anything other than blatant disregard and disrespect? And what genuinely patriotic person would disregard the well being of our beautiful flag? Any genuine patriot who respects and loves our flag is pained by displays of such blatant disrespect and abuse. Yes, to fly a worn out, faded, tattered, torn flag is an abuse of our flag.

The Flag Code is very specific our flag NEVER should be used in advertising. In fact, some States once had laws criminalizing using our flag in advertising; and the Flag Code was written primarily to establish officially that using our flag in advertising is disrespectful of our flag. Indeed, some displays not only are disrespectful, but constitute a desecration of our flag.

A Valley automobile dealer is notorious for disrespecting our flag by slapping a desecrated flag on the back of every vehicle it sells. We must understand, this is phony patriotism designed to dupe unsuspecting people into believing the owners of these dealerships are patriotic. They are not. They have no respect for our flag. Their loyalty is not to our great nation. They are loyal only to money. Their craven abuse of our flag is to dupe potential buyers into believing they care about our great nation and our beautiful flag. Despite employees having been informed repeatedly the owners’ actions are disrespectful and asked to convey that to the owners, they continue to disrespect and desecrate our flag.

Someone might ask, “but aren’t these just ‘replicas’ of the flag, not actually the flag itself?” Amusing. 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”. That is, if a person sees some advertisement with a “replica” of our flag and, “without deliberation” sees it as the flag, it is our flag. And its use, as such, is improper and disrespectful, violating the Flag Code.

It is very popular for people, especially among the self-defined “super patriots” to wear flags as articles of clothing—a cap with the flag emblazoned it, a T-shirt. One 6 January a seditionist even wore a suit—shirt and pants—made of the U.S. flag. Disrespectful. And a desecration of our flag.

The Flag Code says the American flag is not to be worn as apparel. Both T-shirts with the flag emblazoned on it and the shirt itself being made out of the flag are improper and disrespectful displays of the flag. Similarly, to wrap the flag around one’s shoulders, as we sometimes see athletes and demonstrators doing, is an improper display and disrespectful of our flag.

It is hypocritical and sad “super patriots” go into a rage when leftist demonstrators burn our flag in protest. Yet they take great joy in disrespecting and defiling our flag themselves. And yes, of course, burning our flag in protest is disrespectful, a desecration, and never should be condoned in any way. But neither should any disrespectful use or display of our flag.

There are two exceptions to wearing flags. First, military personnel and first responders, such as police and firemen, may wear a flag patch as a part of their uniform. Athletes may not. Thus, those flags on the back of football helmets are disrespectful of our flag. Second, a flag pin may be worn by anyone 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 our flag.

Perhaps the most egregious disrespect and defiling of our flag in all of our great nation’s history occurred during the sedition of 6 January 2021. Many seditionists carried our flag with them in their effort to overthrow our government and subvert our Constitution. They had so little regard for the flags they carried, they used the polls to which they were attached as battering rams, and to hit and injure Capitol Police who were defending our nation against their attempted coup.  

During fights with police, video evidence shows seditionists dropping their flags while charging forward against retreating police. The flags promptly were trampled by the surging mob. No one. Not one of the seditionists bothered to stop and pick up our flag.  Instead, they trampled them.

Think for a moment of those brave young boys in the Civil War who carried our flag into battle. Wounded, with their dying breaths they fought mightily to prevent our flag from touching the ground, from being soiled by mother earth. Think for a moment of those gallant men who swooped to the flag, risking, and even losing their lives, to prevent our flag from being soiled. Think of how these boys and men, now cradled in God’s arms, must feel looking down on us and how the flag they sacrificed their lives for has been and is being disrespected and defiled.

Then think of these liars who profess to be patriots who could not bother to treat our flag with respect during their assault on our capitol, who failed to honor the sacrifice of all those who have bled and died to protect our flag, who desecrated our flag by using it as a weapon, dragging it on the ground, and walking all over it to achieve their objective—the overthrow of the government of the United States of America to establish a fascist dictatorship.

If you fly a flag at your home or a flag is flown at your place of work, look closely at it. If it is faded, or tattered, or torn, take it down immediately. Then, ideally, mount a new flag. Watch over it. Respect it. Love it for the magnificent principles and ideals for which it stands. Honor it on Flag Day by committing yourself to helping “We the People” make our great nation “a more perfect Union”.

Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by writer and educator Samuel Freeman. The column appears in the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service with the permission of the author. Freeman can be reached by email via: [email protected]


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