From the AoM Archives: How to Fly Old Glory With Respect

Originally Published May 22, 2008

Tomorrow is Flag Day in the United States. If you’re looking for a refresher on the ins and outs of flying the American Flag, check out our post from two years ago on How to Fly Old Glory With Respect

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

William Hoffknecht June 14, 2010 at 12:27 am

So I am going to take the unpopular viewpoint on this matter and sometimes people get upset with me, but honestly, I do not understand the hype around the flag. I like it and I love this country and what the constitution stands for, but the flag is just a symbol of an ideal, not the ideal itself. If your faith in an ideal is so weak that you allow the bad treatment of a symbol of that ideal to upset you so much, then I feel that you need to reevaluate your faith in that ideal.

People have gotten uppity with me about “flag etiquette” and I find it rather annoying because one of the main freedoms of the ideal that the flag is a symbol of is to do whatever you want to or with the flag. On that same note, another freedom is to state your opinion on this matter, whether you agree with it or not.

Overall, if you want to follow “respectful” flag rules, go for it. If it makes you feel good to burn your flag after it touches the ground or to always place the field a certain direction, go for it, more power to you, but please stop trying to tell people how to treat their flag. It is their piece of cloth to do with as they please. I am not meaning this to be a rant nor am I trying to tell people what to do with their flag, I just do not understand the overly personal feelings that some people get when thinking about it. Maybe that is because I was never in a justified war where good was fighting evil and the flag served as a symbol of safe haven and security. I do not know. Please, feel free to tell me I am wrong and please explain your feelings to me. I want to understand, but to me the idea of liberty is more important than any symbol of it and I just cannot place a symbol above reality.
I think of it like this: I love my wife, but our rings are nothing more than a symbol. She actually lost her ring. Yes I paid good money for it, yes it was a symbol of our marriage, but it was not our marriage and her losing that ring means nothing to me. It will not shake my love or upset me. She could have smashed it with a hammer if she wanted, it was hers to do with as she pleased.

Again, I am not tying to upset anyone, I am just trying to understand your point of view and back up my claim as to why I have not been able to. I would love to know the thoughts of the people that this really matters to and understand why that is.

Erick June 14, 2010 at 5:35 am

Its really easy to understand Will, that flag is more than just a piece of cloth, and its more than just a symbol, it is a representation of everything we believe in and have done. When you mistreat the flag, you are mistreating everything that has been done in the name of that flag. And the flag etiquette isnt voluntary. They are rules that we have to follow, and while many police dept’s have not enforced the penalizing, you CAN be ticketed for improper displaying of the flag. As well, how someone treats their flag, is a pretty good indicator of how they view this country and how they will treat you. If you had a friend who always talks bad about his girl friends and would cheat on them, odds are you can safely assume he would cheat on his wife as well. And never ever anywhere in the Constitution, nor in any of the later writings by the founding fathers was there ever any mention of this country being based on an ideal of “do what you want”. That is an old holdover from the hippy generation, and they got it from communist infiltrators that made it into the universitys in the 50′s (see Kruschev’s rant at the U.S.). And finally, yes how someone treats the flag has been deemed protected speech by the courts under the first amendment, but dont forget sir, with the freedom of speech, comes the freedom to be held responsible for what we say. And that means when you do something wrong, people have the right to correct you.

William Hoffknecht June 14, 2010 at 6:21 pm

I have to disagree with you some. First of all, to claim that someone mistreating a symbol is as bad as someone mistreating the ideal itself seems foolish to me. That is like someone saying that destroying a piece of paper with a piece sign on it is the same as wanting war and hating peace.

Also, in your argument about what it says in the Constitution, you are correct, but it also never says anywhere that we need to pretend that a piece of cloth is anything more than a piece of cloth.

…and as for the reasoning of police not citing you for mistreatment of the flag, the reason that they do not is simple: because the courts have shot down those laws and they are unconstitutional. It is not because they choose not to, it is because they will lose if you challenge them.

I cannot agree with you on most of your points, this is why I cannot agree on the flag as a whole. I am not saying that people should mistreat the flag, but I am saying that it is not a moral or legal issue if someone does, so I cannot understand why people care so much. You have to pick your battles and be reasonable, and if some people are going to throw tantrums over something as minor as a symbol of an ideal, then it seems to me that they need to really get their priorities in line. This country is a great country and our Constitution is a brilliant document, but the flag is just a symbol and if you let someone’s treatment of that symbol upset you, you are letting them win. You are eliciting the response that they are trying to get.

To judge someone on how they treat a flag seems overkill. What if their reasons make perfect sense? Instead of listening and trying to understand, the passing of judgment is hasty, and to assume that one knows everything about a person or their feelings for our country because of a treatment of a symbol is a major over generalization. The world is not black and white, or right and wrong. The gray areas of truth are so large that you have to at least attempt to understand reasons and motivations.

Now, I am not a communist nor am I a hardcore free-market capitalist, but there is a great misguided idea in this country as to what communism is and how it is supposed to work. This is a holdover from the 50s McCarthy era as well. The red scare was one of the largest loads or crap that people used to try to control freedom of thought and rational debate, and in the process, it taught us a fear for Stain and Mao (Which, I am not trying to defend, they were rather horrible people), but neither of them were truly communist and we labeled them as such, and therefore, distorted the definition of communist.

I do agree that with freedoms and rights come great responsibility, but when people attempt to stymie those rights are when you have to battle against them even harder and with greater vigor. When someone tries to tell you that you have to treat a piece of cloth a certain way, that is when it is most important to treat it the way that you want, otherwise it is a downhill slope on how and where they are going to place their restrictions.

I love that you have faith in your love for the flag. More power to you. Your reasons are valid to you, but not to me, so I will have to disagree. This is why I cannot understand your reasons for myself and my feelings, but I love that people do.

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