Flag Waving “Patriots”

Before I was born, my father was in the U.S. Army. He didn’t talk about it really, but, there were little tells. He was big on making your bed properly each morning (“hospital corners”). He would often remind me of the importance of shining my shoes—particularly before any interview. In addition to these telling behaviors, he did have physical remnants. Stuff. As a child, I thought a lot of these things were pretty cool: the uniform itself, pins for your uniform, and so on. He kept one other category of Army issued material: instructions.

Instructions came in a few formats. Some were full up books. More often, though, they were small pamphlets or even a foldable card. I recall hanging onto the “Why We Salute” card for a long time. (Apparently, there are even a few on eBay.) Yet, there was another that I looked at a lot and committed to memory: How to treat the U.S. Flag. It was basically the most important parts of the U.S. Flag Code. I can’t find a copy of that card, however, the U.S. Flag code is readily available. I’ll link it here:

U.S. Flag Code

It’s an easy and direct read, and yet, most people disregard these simple rules. The most egregious offenders are the ones that alter the flag and still claim it to be the U.S. Flag. It is not:

“§1. Flag; stripes and stars on: The flag of the United States shall be thirteen horizontal stripes, alternate red and white; and the union of the flag shall be fifty stars representing the fifty states, white in a blue field.”

If you’re changing the color of any stripe, it isn’t a U.S. Flag, and represents something else. Then, there are people that purchase a genuine, unaltered U.S. Flag in order to say, “I care”, and, “I’m a patriot”, and then those people don’t know how to treat the flag, and this happens all too frequently:

Police disrespect the flag

A local Police booth with a torn flag, caught up in the booth’s light fixture.

Flag being dragged by a vehicle

The flag was never meant to be attached to a vehicle at high speeds. In particular, if you know you should see the flag in your rear-view mirror, but don’t: pull over, get out, and check. According to the U.S. Flag code, this flag should be retired.

Most people will be shocked—Stunned!, even—to find out that, yes, you retire a flag by burning it:

“§8. Respect for flag, 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.”

Then there’s this ratty mess:

Weather-beaten Flag

This is just disrespectful.

(That’s it…I initially had a slightly different ending, tying this into the tech world, but it was really reaching and strained. You just don’t need to do a thing if you don’t think you have a tenacity to keep it up properly.)