Stars and Stripes should be treated with loving respect

Posted: Sunday, June 13, 2004

"A thoughtful mind, when it sees a nation's flag, sees not the flag only, but the nation itself; and whatever may be its symbols, its insignia, he reads chiefly in the flag the government, the principles, the truths, the history which belongs to the nation that sets it forth."

Henry Ward Beecher, clergyman and lecturer

In "the National Flag," 1861

Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the ensuing war on terrorism, it's unlikely any American has gazed upon "Old Glory" in quite the same way as before. It's much more difficult to be complacent about the freedom and the ideals which the flag represents.

President Ronald Reagan's death and the remembrance of his fervent love for this country also has turned our attention to the flag. All flags will continue to fly at half-staff in honor of the president until 30 days after his death.

The nation's visible displays of patriotism and respect for President Reagan may mean the flag you've been waving is looking a little frayed around the edges.

If so, Monday you have the opportunity to properly retire it. The American Legion George H. Plumley Memorial Post No. 20 in Kenai will dispose of tattered and torn and otherwise old and unserviceable flags in a ceremony at 6 p.m. Monday, which is Flag Day. People can drop their flags by the Kenai post at 903 Cook St. prior to the ceremony. By the way, Flag Day marks the day in 1777 when the U.S. flag was adopted.

While flying the flag is one way to show love for country, giving a worn flag a proper farewell is another.

"There is the National flag. He must be cold, indeed, who can look upon its folds rippling in the breeze without pride of country. If in a foreign land, the flag is companionship, and country itself, with all its endearments."

U.S. statesman Charles Sumner In "Are We a Nation?" Nov. 19, 1867

"Old Glory" certainly is strong enough to withstand any abuse someone wants to dish out, but nevertheless the flag is deserving of our respect. Spontaneous patriotic displays, which may not be by the book, are certainly from the heart. While no disrespect is intended in such displays, many Americans may be unaware that there is a right way and a wrong way to treat the flag. Some dos and don'ts:

The flag should not be draped over the hood, top, sides or back of a vehicle, railroad train or boat.

When the flag is displayed on a car or truck, the staff should be fixed firmly to the chassis or clamped to the right fender.

When hung in a window, the union the blue area with the stars should be placed in the upper left as viewed from the street.

When displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the union should be uppermost and to the flag's own right that is, the observer's left.

The flag should not touch anything beneath it for example, the ground, water or merchandise.

The flag should not be used as a covering for a ceiling.

If you're curious about more dos and don'ts for the proper treatment of Old Glory, just type in "flag etiquette" on the Internet. You're likely to be amazed at the number of rules and regulations that surface. The flag even has its own public law the flag code which outlines its correct use and display for all occasions.

"It is the flag just as much of the man who was naturalized yesterday as of the man whose people who have been here generations."

Henry Cabot Lodge, U.S. senator in an address given in 1915

The real beauty of the Stars and Stripes is the freedom for all it represents. The bottom line is that what the flag stands for is far more important than how it is displayed. As it has been noted in debates over a flag amendment, there is a danger in elevating a symbol of freedom the flag over freedom itself. Patriotism can't be legislated any more than morality can. How one flies the flag or doesn't is no barometer of a person's love of country. And the absolute strength of the United States of America is the ability of the people of this great nation to fervently love their country without agreeing on everything.

Still, knowing the rules that apply to the flag and abiding by them can increase our appreciation for what the flag means. Our respectful treatment of the flag also honors the many veterans who have gone to great lengths to keep the Stars and Stripes flying high.

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