Every kid should learn this stuff by third grade, but it’s clear from what we see that they don’t.
Flag flying at the eastern front of the U.S. Capitol. Library of Congress photo
So here’s a quick review of dos and don’ts for display and behavior toward the U.S. flag on this most flag-worthy of days, the 4th of July. With a few comments.
1. Fly your flag, from sunup to sundown. If you’re lucky enough to have a flagpole, run the flag up quickly. Retire it slowly at sunset. Then go see fireworks.
2. Display flags appropriately, if not flown from a staff. If suspended from a building or a wall, remember the blue field of stars should always be on the flag’s right — the “northwest corner” or left as you look at it. Do not display a flag flat, parallel to the ground.
3. Salute the flag as it opens the 4th of July parade. In a better world, there would be just one U.S. flag at the opening of the parade, and the entire crowd would rise as it passes them in a great patriotic, emotional wave — civilians with their hands over their hearts, hats off; people in uniform saluting appropriately with hats on. It’s likely that your local parade will not be so crisp. Other entries in the parade will have flags, and many will be displayed inappropriately. A true patriot might rise and salute each one — but that would look silly, perhaps even sillier than those sunshine patriots who display the flag inappropriately. Send them a nice letter this year, correcting their behavior. But don’t be obnoxious about it.
4. Do not display the flag from a car antenna, attached to a window of a car, or attached in the back of a truck. That’s against the Flag Code, which says a flag can only be displayed attached to the right front fender of a car, usually with a special attachment. This means that a lot of the National Guard entries in local parades will be wrongly done, according to the flag code. They defend the flag, and we should not make pests of ourselves about it. Write them a letter commending their patriotism. Enclose the Flag Code, and ask them to stick to it next time. Innocent children are watching.
5. Do not dishonor the flag by abusing it or throwing it on the ground. It’s become popular for a local merchant to buy a lot of little plastic flags and pass them out to parade goers. If there is an advertisement on the flag, that is another violation of the Flag Code. The flag should not be used for commercial purposes. I have, several times, found piles of these flags on the ground, dumped by tired people who were passing them out, or dumped by parade goers who didn’t want to carry the things home. It doesn’t matter if it’s printed on cheap plastic, and made in China — it is our nation’s flag anyway. Honor it. If it is worn, dispose of it soberly, solemnly, and properly.
That’s probably enough for today. When the Flag Desecration Amendment passes — if it ever does — those parade float makers, National Guard soldiers, and merchants, can all be jailed, perhaps. Or punished in other ways. And wouldn’t that be silly and unproductive?
Until that time, our best hope is to review the rules, obey them, and set examples for others.
Have a wonderful 4th of July! Fly the flag. Read the Declaration of Independence out loud. Love your family, hug them, and feed them well. That’s part of the Pursuit of Happiness that this day honors. It is your right, your unalienable right. Use it wisely, often and well.
Happy birthday, Kathryn!
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