I’m one of the few people I know (presuming of course that I know myself) who has actually read the U.S. Flag Code, Title 4 of the United States Code. The Flag Code is a federal law, which specifies treatment, display, respect, and permitted usage of the United States flag.
The U.S. Flag Code is quite severe in its restrictions and interpretations of those three colors. In Section 8-J, it deems the flag as a living object - “The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing.”
Of course, we’re just talking about a piece of cloth (with high lead content if manufactured in China). But emotions can run very high over that cloth. Rip up a $990 designer Reed Krakoff T-shirt (like Ann Romney wore during one of her speeches on how her family was in touch with average Americans) and people will laugh at you. Rather, they should laugh at anyone stupid enough to spend that much money on a T-shirt.
However, tear an American flag in half and it’s no laughing matter. Wars have been waged over lesser emotional responses.