Local News

Springer Journal: Your American Flag

Posted June 27, 2006 6:57 a.m. EDT

— Flag Day 2006 (June 14th) has come and gone. Regrettably, most folks would not even recall that we had Flag Day if it were not for the many sales associated with this day.

Independence Day, July 4th, is just around the corner. Again, it will be sales and marketing efforts by various businesses that will remind many of this special day. Since July 4th is a national holiday, there will be parades, fireworks and backyard cookouts which should serve as a reminder of that special day in 1776.

Sandwiched between these two days this year, your United States Congress is once again discussing/debating the merits of a Constitutional Amendment which would prevent the burning of an American flag when done as an act of defiance. (Our flag protocol does permit the burning of our flag when it is no longer serviceable.) Nearly all Americans agree that our flag should not be burned in a defiant or derogatory manner. They also, in large numbers, are concerned with a Constitutional Amendment which would inhibit or restrict freedom of speech. And these citizens regard defiant flag burning as a form of free speech.

As a sentimental and patriotic old coot, I do not like to witness our flag ... the symbol of our nation ... treated with disrespect. There are so many other ways to protest our government and its policies.

I do not think it likely that a constitutional amendment prohibiting flag burning is in the near future. But we should all realize there is already an existing law, generally referred to as the Flag Code, which deals with flag etiquette.

As we see the 2006 Flag Day in our rear view mirror, and with July 4th Independence Day on the horizon maybe we should review the U.S. Code Title 4, Chapter 1. If you are out and about, day or night, you can witness all kinds of examples where flag etiquette, as defined in Title 4, is either not understood or it is simply ignored.

Let me cite a few specifics of the Flag Code.

It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open. However ... the flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.

The flag should be displayed during school days in or near every schoolhouse.

The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery.

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.

The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.

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.

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.

The flag, when it is such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified manner, preferably by burning.

And there is much more to Title 4.

I wonder just how many of us do honor the "Time and occasions for display" and the "Respect for flag" rules which are part of our current U.S. Code. I notice many flags which are not illuminated during the hours of darkness ... I see businesses using the flag in sometimes subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, methods of advertising ...I see clothing, purses, credit cards, etc. which use our flag without regard for Title 4.

I suspect that in most cases the specific aspects of flag etiquette are simply not understood. As Congress debates the need for a Constitutional Amendment prohibiting the burning of the American flag, it may be appropriate for the Congress and for all of us to review and respect the existing statutes.

Enjoy a safe and meaningful Independence Day.