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The Fourth of July brings lively conversations to the picnic tables each year. How are the kids doing?
Did you hear that Doreen got married?
How is Aaron enjoying college?
Burn any flags lately?
You don’t hear much about flag burning during the rest of the year, but Independence Day seems to always throw fuel on the subject. Every year, people who couldn’t tell you what the Ninth Amendment is if their life depended on it take a fervent stand against those burning the flag.
And so with stars and stripes illuminating the background, well, as they say, let the fireworks begin.
Burning the flag is primarily designed to provoke outrage. It does little to change anything and since most American flags these days are made in China, the worst aspect of burning a flag is the possibility of inhaling formaldehyde fumes.
But actually, I don’t want to talk about burning the flag. We’ll save that for another day (after I move and get an unlisted address). What I’d like to do is discuss the daily desecration of the flag by people who otherwise think they are honoring it.
Proper treatment of the American flag is clearly laid out in U.S. Code Title 4 (Flag and Seal) and Title 36 (Patriotic Societies and Observances). The code defines a flag as “any flag, standard, colors, ensign, or any picture or representation of either, or of any part or parts of either, made of any substance or represented on any substance, of any size evidently purporting to be either of said flag, standard, colors, or ensign of the United States of America or a picture or a representation of either, upon which shall be shown the colors, the stars and the stripes, in any number of either thereof, or of any part or parts of either, by which the average person seeing the same without deliberation may believe the same to represent the flag, colors, standard, or ensign of the United States of America.”
Now that’s a mouthful! In short, it says that anything that looks like, resembles, is recognized as, or even reminds people of the flag is the flag.
For example, did you see all those American flag shirts being worn at the FIFA World Cup? U.S. Code states that the flag “should never be used as wearing apparel” (except for military and police). Sports fans would probably argue that a shirt is not a flag, but how do you think they’d react if protesters burned flag shirts? No doubt they would be outraged. Hey sports fans, read Title 4 and 36. You’re desecrating the flag.
Models wear the flag like a shawl. Cowboys wear American flag bandannas. Bikers wear flag adorned helmets. Women strut on the beach with American flag bikinis. The American flag design is on towels, pants, hats, guitars, dog collars and even underwear (yeah, thongs too).
These are all desecration of the flag. In 1983, Larry Flynt went to jail for wearing an American flag diaper in court.
The code is specific. You can’t use the flag for any commercial activities. You can’t wear a flag. You can’t write on a flag (like all those politicians who autograph flags). You can’t have the flag on sports equipment.
You can’t use the flag design on napkins, picnic tablecloths, coffee cups or pencils. Car dealers can’t use flags to decorate their lots. The flag cannot be used for advertising in any way at any time.
If you think that these examples are nitpicking, don’t argue it with me.
Find an ex-Marine and ask if it’s okay for you to lie out on the ground on a flag beach towel. See how many soldiers find it patriotic for you to wear a flag as a scarf. Ask a veteran if it’s okay for you to wipe that hot dog relish off your face with a flag napkin.
Do you really want to honor the flag? Read the U.S. Flag Code and have a great Independence Day.