May 13, 2012

Summer and the Flag

As May progresses rapidly towards Memorial Day and the Fourth of July celebrations, I've seen a lot of flag decorations appearing in honor of those days. I had a conversation with my teenage son about what he has learned about the US flag. "They've never talked about it in school." That floored me. I promptly scooted his chair next to my laptop, and began guiding him to understand the flag. I recommend (United States Title 36 Chapter 10 codes), Wikipedia,  and Flags On Cars (if you want a more basic explanation) about respecting the flag. Most people today have LOST their respect for the flag because the history of it isn't taught much.

The discussion with my son reminded me of what I learned about our flag when I was in elementary school, Boy Scouts, my grandfather, and when I had it on my right shoulder. The reason I started guiding him to learn something was because I was getting frustrated with the way a lot of people display the stars and stripes.

When I was young, we were always taught how to display a flag. Always with the union (blue field) to the upper left of the OBSERVER of the flag when horizontal, upper left when vertical. My suggestion? If you are going to hang a flag in the front window of your house, go outside and look at it from the view of people that go past it. Hang it the right way. Might be reversed if you look at it from inside your house, but it is more respectful to hang it the way MORE people see it.

So, why does the Army use a reversed patch on the right shoulder? Part of the respect is because the union is always supposed to be moving forward. This concept stems from when the US flag first appeared with the cavalry attached it to a pole and had a flag bearer to carry it into battle, even in a windstorm. A modern understanding of that is to look where and how the flags are affixed to diplomatic vehicles while driving. As it passes you, the flag on the fender of the passenger sides shows it. This is also in the code mentioned above. Seeing stickers on the passenger side of cars and semis that aren't reversed, has bugged me a lot. Is a little bit of disrespect.

Okay, on another note. I did learn something as an adult because I didn't pay attention in class when I was young. Many roller derby refs have the flag patch on their uniform, as did I for a week before it was ripped off by a random Velcro event with a skater. As I was reading the two websites listed above, I "learned" that:
No part of the flag should be used as an element of a costume or athletic uniform.
Okay, that made me feel guilty, because a lot of referees in derby have a sticker on their helmets or patches on their shirts. I'm not sure if it "applies" to refs (I can't confirm it), but because I view it as an athletic uniform, I will not be putting a patch on my shoulder again, and have peeled the sticker from my helmet.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all about supporting the US and the flag that represents it, but it is my responsibility to be respectful. My final suggestion? Check out the websites above, and nudge others to learn maybe just a little more about the flag.

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