Auld Lang Syne

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Have you noticed how many more flags have been flying in the ten years post 9/11 and wondered where they were before? I have been. At first it was a nice thing to see such nationalism. Then it got to be a little nauseating for me. There were flags everywhere, ON people, pasted onto various items where flags usually are not found. I grew suspicious and curious. I wondered about all the folks who had flag shirts, flags on the butts of their jeans, flag hats, flag pens, flag pocketbooks, flag golf balls.... the list goes on and on. I decided to investigate where and when the flag is legally flown or used as a symbol. I was fairly certain a flag coffee mug or a flag golf ball was not exactly kosher. Now I admit I have been bothered for a LONG TIME by the various "renditions" of the National Anthem, which is only supposed to be sung as written. But the flag thing was now bugging me too. (some of you are shaking your heads now and saying I ought to take meds and lighten up... really, I know you're out there thinking that!)

I digress. I needed to know about this uber-patriotism. I found the US Flag Code. (Who knew there was such a thing?) According to the Flag Code, all these "items" are not okay. The flag is supposed to be flown, not worn. Yes, a tasteful flag lapel pin is very okay. But grandma's flag sweatshirt is not. Here is a section of the Flag Code:

§ 8. Respect for Flag.
No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America; the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing. Regimental colors, state flags, and organization or institutional flags are to be dipped as a mark of honor.
(a) The flag should never be displayed with union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.

(b) The flag should never touch anything beneath it such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.
(c) The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.
(d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white, and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker’s desk, draping in front of the platform, and for a decoration in general.
(e) The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way.
(f) The flag should never be used as a covering for a ceiling.
(g) The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.
(h) The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.
(i) The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.
(j) No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.
(k) The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.

I fly a flag from my front porch. It flies free and unfettered. It represents something sacred to me and it is a honored part of my home. I take it in when it rains, keep it lit at night. I do not wear flags or drape them on things for Fourth of July. I stand with my hand over my heart when the flag passes by and respect what it stands for in our history. My father was willing to give his life for what it represents. When I saw his remains under the flag at Arlington Cemetery in 1993, when I heard taps played, when I recoiled from the guns saluting his service, I knew that the flag was way more than a symbol. 

On this 4th of July, I will write a poem about the flag. I will stop for a few moments and think about my father. I will give thanks for being able to live here where my opinion and my vote are as free as the flag on my porch.

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