Monday, May 10, 2010

Some questions about the flag code

Recently, a number of things have made me wonder about how well people follow the flag code, especially the part about "Respect for the flag". Therefore, I looked up the Flag Code's section on "Respect for the Flag" and found this:

§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.
  1. The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.
  2. The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.
  3. The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.
  4. 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 the front of the platform, and for decoration in general.
  5. 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.
  6. The flag should never be used as a covering for a ceiling.
  7. 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.
  8. The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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
Okay... So let's look through section 8 one by one. The protesters of the "disrespect" to the flag aren't seen (to my knowledge) in doing (a), and although I'm not sure that (b) really can work if the flag itself its merchandise, I don't think that it is generally done by "Flag coders", although with September 11th flag mat, one does have to place it on the ground...

That brings us to (c): in addition to the flag mat and the placing-of-a-flag at a memorial above, there are technical violations done repeatedly during sporting events, and often by the military:

This flag is both horizontal (against the code) and is not flying "aloft and free". Sorry, but this patriotic display of the flag is against the flag code.

On to point (d), the worst violation by the "Flag coders". Just consult the Oracle of Google for "US flag clothes" and you will find thousands of examples of a violation of this point. Some examples:

Although many "Flag Coders" may feel that it is the pinnacle of patriotism to sweat into the flag plastered on their bodies, whomever drafted the flag code would have begged to differ.

On to point (e): Here we find "Flag Coders" both upholding the code while others are also in violation of it (see above, where George W. Bush is clearly in a position to soil a flag, which is laying horizontally, and is touching the ground).

On to point (f), I didn't found this one example of a flag-as-ceiling... in a military tent. Can't be more patriotic than the military, right? Unfortunately, the contractor was breaking the flag code. (Apparently, the soldiers didn't know or care, either.)

Holding tent; flag ceiling

Then there is point (g). There are many photos of politicians supported by "Flag Coders" in which they are placing marks (their signature) on flags:

There are also the technical violations of "support-the-troops" insignias and symbols printed on top of the flag (while one might not like it, or feel that supporting the troops is a patriotic use of the flag, it is technically against this point in the flag code):

On to point (h): Doing a search for "flag basket" one can find many examples of the flag being a receptacle for potentially holding, carrying, and/or delivering. Are these flag baskets (or similar receptacles) used by "Flag Coders"? I don't know, since I couldn't figure out the correct sequence of words with which to query the Oracle of Google. However, I can imagine a "Flag Coder" in his or her flag shirt, sitting and eating a picnic out of a flag basket (but that basket would be on a blanket, and not on the ground, obviously).

On to point (i): Wow. Let's take this point-by-point. It "should not be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever": How many car commercials have you seen that have in them the US flag, especially around Memorial Day, July 4th, or Veterans Day? All of them -- in using the flag in the commercial -- are technically violating the Flag Code's "in any manner whatsoever" ban.

However, what about things like this sign, where you can go and be an American, and buy meat, cigarettes, and beer:

It should not be made into a cushion. Oops:

anything for temporary use or discard. Oops:

On to point (j), and in these times, you almost always see "Flag Coders" wearing patriotic flag pins, and you definitely see public officials, during public events, displaying their flag pins on their left lapels at every chance they get (providing they are wearing lapels). However, this wasn't always the case, as this photo of Reagan and Bush I shows:

Wow. The man who brought down the Soviet Union (and his one-term successor) aren't wearing lapel pins?!? How could you have known if they were "true patriots" and "real Americans"? (On a side note, if anyone has read through the graphic novel Pyongyang? There are a few panels in the book about how to tell if a person is a real patriot by the presence, position, and condition of their flag pins. This whole flag-pin business in this country really makes me think that some of the "Flag Coders" and "real American patriots" want to subject us to an authoritarian regime in which wearing a pin is equivalent to patriotism.)

Finally to point (k). It always seems to me that it is the "Flag Coders" who are up-in-arms about burning flags and how it's desecration. However, the code says that this is the preferred manner of destroying the flag. (Of course, with all these synthetic flags out there, I don't know if it's the healthiest manner of doing so.) True, many anti-US protesters burn the flag, but instead of getting angry at the fact that these protesters are burning the flag, one should be happy that they are treating it with a respectful final destruction at the hands of "the anti-US" who could have put it to far worse purposes.

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