The American Flag is Not a Novelty

Americans are a proud group. They love their country. They love their political party. They love their flag. But like an insecure braggart with small hands, perhaps many Americans who flaunt their patriotism are coming up short with respect.

I’m referring to their flag-flashing.

America is a rare country. If you ask foreigners when they visit America, what is something that surprises them, many respond saying that there are American flags everywhere. Very few countries are like this, as far as I have heard.

Flags abroad usually designate a state or federal landmark: post offices, courthouses, city halls, and the like. You’d rarely see a foreigner with a flag flying in his front yard, or a flag decal on his vehicle, or the flag screen-printed on his shirt with a quirky phrase above it.

This kind of behavior is atypical to Americans.

You’d definitely not see a flag wrapped about the crotch of a bikini girl in a beer commercial.

If you love your country and your flag, you’d definitely not want to see it disrespected, let alone pay money to display it disrespected.

Driving around through small town USA, you’ll see variants and renditions of what I assume are supposed to be American flag home décor. For example, wood skid planks with 5 stripes and 11 stars, metal mailboxes with 3 stripes and 7 stars, salvaged play wood with 12 stripes and 40 stars, a door wreath with no stripes but several white, red, and blue stars around it, and a real flag with 13 stripes and 50 stars, but hung incorrectly or have a name plastered across it.

I suppose these USA-loving country folk are sincere and proud, but they are woefully ignorant. These are the same types that say that they stand for the flag, remove their hats, and would shoot anyone who burned the flag. They love America.

But ignorantly, they also dishonor the American flag. If you’re going to be flamboyant and boisterous about Old Glory, be knowledgeable about it and the etiquette that is required when handling a flag. Respect the flag and its complete components when designing home décor that accompanies it.

The American flag at current has 50 stars and 13 stripes. This is for a reason, just as each of the colors represent something. You do a dishonor by shaving off stars or stripes when you make or buy something made that is not a complete American flag. I say this sincerely and without personal shame.

Each star represents a state that is in our union. If we are the United States, then your decoration of a flag item should represent all 50 of our united states. The stripes also should be complete, all 13 of them. Shaving off a stripe or two does an injustice to what they stand for.

You don’t have to be a history buff to show your American pride, but realize what you’re sending out as a message to the neighborhood and passersby.

There are a handful of things you might unknowingly disrespect or show irreverence with the flag:

  • There should be no flag-like clothing. The American Legion suggests that you put something else on.
  • There should be no American flag napkins, paper plates, or toilet paper. The flag is never to be placed on something that was made to be tossed out.
  • A flag should not be destroyed if it ever touches the ground. Simply wash it.
  • Flag patches should never be sewn onto sports apparel or Halloween costumes.
  • The stars and stripes should never be replaced with something else, like symbols, icons, letters, numbers, or names.
  • Take your flag down in stormy weather. I see this a lot and it’s not cool. Your flag being beat up by storms can be seen as very disrespectful.
  • Never fly other flags on the same flag pole, unless it’s a city or state flag. You may fly other flags with the American flag, but they must be on a separate pole.
  • The flag should never be used as a tablecloth or car covering (even in parades).
  • The flag should never be used as a part of advertising.
  • The flag should never be part of packaging, wrapping paper, or delivery baggage.
  • And never have someone autograph your flag. I’m surprised that I even need to bring this up.
  • The flag should never be halved with another flag, whether it’s the flag of Ireland, Germany, Mexico, or that so-called nation that we defeated in the Civil War.

Now, on the more positive side—things you should do with a flag:

  • The flag should always be vertical, not horizontal like you see over baseball and football fields. And when it’s vertically displayed, the stars are always to be on the left. The exception would be on a soldier’s casket, whereas the union is displayed over the left side, over the head and heart of the recently departed.
  • The stars should also face the front of an official vehicle or person, like on a soldier, police officer, fire truck, sheriff car, et al.
  • Indoors, the American flag is to displayed on the left, a city, state or religious flag is to be on the right or the center of the room’s podium.
  • You are to display the flag from dawn till dusk. If you wish to fly the flag overnight, it must be illuminated. On Memorial Day, it’s to be raised half-staff, and then raised the rest of the way at noon.
  • The flag can be hung at half-staff if the President or Governor orders it. Otherwise it always stays at the top of your flag pole.
  • Storing the flag by neatly folding it. It should be cleaned and mended as needed.
  • If an old or tattered flag is being retired, you may burn it.

I am always perplexed when supposedly patriotic families don’t have flag etiquette. But I trust that these aren’t bad people, but rather sincere people who only want to show love for their country and the symbol there of.

Be proud of your country, whether you were born here or emigrated here. Be proud of your flag, whether you fly one or not. But proudly know how to respect your flag, especially if you’re quick to say how others are supposedly disrespecting it. The American flag is rich with history and custom. It is not a novelty item.

Concerns or questions can easily be answered by searching “Flag Etiquette” online or looking up U.S. Code: Title 4, Chapter 1. There is a lot left out of this article such as flag-related holidays, but I feel I addressed many of the important concerns above.

I know you’re trying to be sincere, but be knowledgeable, my fellow American.