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Do You Know Proper Flag Etiquette?

United We Stand; Divided We Fall

A lot of tweets, Facebook posts, and memes have been flying back and forth regarding the controversy over the NFL teams kneeling, linking arms, or staying in the locker rooms during the national anthem. It appears this might even filter down to the colleges and high schools. But if you ask the average citizen what is proper flag etiquette, I bet few people know.

I thought I knew the answers, after all I was a Girl Scout, until I decided to do some research. Even the most self-righteous of those weighing in on the kneeling controversy probably have broken some of the flag codes. Why, even our own president is at fault. He has been photographed standing during the national anthem but not putting his hand over his heart. The first lady, an immigrant, had to remind him to do this.

According to military.com, “Flag Ettiquette Dos and Donts,” the following should be observed:

    • All persons present in uniform (military, police, fire, etc.) should render the military salute. Members of the armed forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute.

    • All other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, or if applicable, remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart.

How many men stand and remove their hats and hold it with their right hands at shoulder level while placing that hand over their hearts? I have seen many people stand but continue to talk during the anthem. Men and boys sometimes must be reminded to remove their hats and many fail to face in the direction of the flag. So, while we are on the topic of the NFL and flag etiquette, many players do not place their hands over their hearts nor do they remove their helmets.

The same web site goes on to list many more Do’s and Don’ts but some of the most commonly violated which I have observed are:

  • Don’t let the flag touch the ground.
  • Don’t fly the flag upside down unless there is an emergency.
  • Don’t store the flag where it can get dirty.
  • Don’t use the flag as decoration.

Traditionally, the flag should be displayed only from sunrise to sundown and if it is left up after sunset it should be illuminated. I have seen many flags flown from houses and not taken down at sunset or during inclement weather. I have also seen flags drooping to the ground or rolled up and stuffed in the corner of the porch when not in use; all of which is a, “No, no.”

I once rescued a flag from the trash. It had been wadded up and thrown to the curb along with the other trash. I took it to the fire department which routinely ceremoniously burns flags according to the flag code.

The web site USA.gov, The American Flag and Its Protocol, states that the flag is a symbol of freedom and liberty to which Americans pledge their allegiance by standing at attention and facing the flag with their right hand over the heart.

The most interesting and insightful web site which I found is Senate.gov, CRS Report for Congress. The CRS is the Congressional Research Service and its report can be summed up in the first paragraph.

                No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America.

The most interesting statement of the 17 page report is:

Thus, the Flag Code does not prescribe any penalties for non-compliance nor does it include enforcement provisions; rather the Code functions simply as a guide to be voluntarily followed by civilians and civilian groups.

Yes, there are no laws and therefore no punishments for failing to follow protocol. Therefore, the teams have the freedom to do as they wish. This is called freedom of speech and freedom of expression which is what this country was founded on. This means that if one wants to kneel rather than the standard traditional salute we have the freedom to do so.

This movement began as a peaceful way of bringing attention to the racial inequalities in this country. There are many forms of protest which are much more disrespectful but kneeling is a sign of respect. We kneel at church and in prayer so why not kneel during the anthem?

When players are injured on the field the teams will take a knee, which is a way of showing respect for the injured player. Considering this country’s current state of affairs, you might say that taking a knee is showing respect for the flag and the country for which it stands, just in a different way.

This country is facing many serious problems, most much more important than what the NFL does during the national anthem. Experts say we are the closet to nuclear war than we have ever been. The states and the American territory of Puerto Rico devastated by the recent hurricanes are facing billions of dollars and years of rebuilding. And, as if this isn’t enough, the Russians are quietly laughing at us as they create chaos within our government.

Before we begin throwing stones let us look inward and analyze our own actions measured against the Federal Flag Code. We shouldn’t let this dog whistle divide us but, rather, let us link arms in the brotherhood of humanity. In 1986 Hands Across America was held to raise money for the homeless in which a human chain was formed reaching from one coast to another. Why not a link chain stretching across the country where people of all races, religions and countries of origin can stand shoulder to shoulder, linked arm in arm. A way of showing our strength and commitment to what this country has always stood for—liberty and justice for ALL.

Remember: United we stand; divided we fall.

 

 

There are many other Do’s and Don’ts besides those I have discussed. For those wanting more information I recommend the following sites:

https://www.senate.gov/reference/resources/pdf/RL30243.pdf

https://www.usa.gov/flag

https://www.va.gov/opa/publications/celebrate/flagdisplay.pdf

http://www.military.com/flag-day/flag-ettiquette-dos-and-donts.html

 

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