Thursday, May 29, 2008

Flag Faux Pas

Steph over at Sweet Water Journal tagged me for a meme, but it'll have to wait until I get this post off my chest. I've been stewing about flags and flag etiquette since someone (someones) went around town after dark late last week and planted cheap plastic flags in everyone's front yard. I mean, EVERYONE. The town is COVERED in these things. Now that nearly a week has gone by, and the "official" Memorial Day holiday is over (although St. Johns, in a rare bout of non-conservatism, is choosing to celebrate it on the ACTUAL day of the holiday, May 30th), these flags are pretty sad looking. Most are dirty and shabby, their wooden dowel "poles" broken; some have been trampled into the ground, or even mowed over. And I got to wondering about the ACTUAL "rules" governing the flag, its use and the disposal thereof.

The rules of flag usage are found in the United States Code, Title 4, Chapter 1. They're FASCINATING, mostly because so many self-described "patriotic" Americans don't know diddly-shit about them. I've known for a long time that the flag techinically should not be turned into articles of clothing, and that the best way to dispose of a worn-out flag is to burn it (despite contradicting laws on the books of many states that expressly forbid this). I know that the flag should be illuminated if it's left flying all night, and that you're not supposed to let it touch the ground. But, I DIDN'T know that The flag should never be...embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard.

Whoops! Looks like someone forgot to tell these guys. Of course, they seem to be sold out of the napkins...either they found out that they're a no-no, or, perhaps more likely, people gobbled 'em up like crazy. Here's another:

Hmmm. Apparently "showing patriotism" is completely different from "understanding the laws." Oh well; President Bush CLAIMS patriotism right and left, and he often has no clear understanding of the law. Anyway...this napkin also has writing on it, something that the code expressly forbids: The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature. So, clearly THESE are problematic:

I'm sure both the heritage flag folks AND those nice women of the Red Hat Society didn't PLAN on breaking the law...just as I'm sure no one is going to arrest them. Hell, they're being PATRIOTIC, right?? Hmm. Maybe. I guess that even THIS is technically not allowed:

Further proof (as if we needed any) that the government doesn't always follow its own rules. I mean, clearly that's a flag, right? And, written on it is "37/USA," right? Oh, hell, but that's not REALLY a flag, is it? It's just a stamp, a PICTURE of a flag, and an incomplete one at that! Surely THAT doesn't count!

The words "flag, standard, colors, or ensign", as used herein, shall include any flag, standard, colors, ensign, or any picture or representation of either, or of any part or parts of either, made of any substance or represented on any substance, of any size evidently purporting to be either of said flag, standard, colors, or ensign of the United States of America or a picture or a representation of either, upon which shall be shown the colors, the stars and the stripes, in any number of either thereof, or of any part or parts of either, by which the average person seeing the same without deliberation may believe the same to represent the flag, colors, standard, or ensign of the United States of America.

Whew! That's wordy, but what I get from it is, if it LOOKS like the flag, and if a person understands that it's SUPPOSED TO BE the flag? Then it's the flag. Even if it's a picture of the flag. Which kind of shoots a hole in THIS logic:

Turns out that following 9/11, so many people wanted flags that some of them ended up being made in China. Big, BIG whoops! You probably have to 'click' on the picture to read the photo caption, but the guy's argument is that car antenna flags AREN'T flags; they're toys. Sorry, no. They're flags.

Those irritating car magnets purporting to "show support for the troops" walk a fine line; many of them are technically "bunting," which is a drapery of red, white and blue. So, these magnets seem to be bunting:

While THESE here, with the addition of white stars on a blue field, are clearly meant to be flags:

These are especially loathsome because they contain space for buyers to put their own text; not only is this writing on the flag, but it could be used for advertising purposes. The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever.

One part of the Code that seems to be broken the MOST often is when people actually WEAR the flag. Hell, what could be more patriotic than wearing the flag as a t-shirt? Well, according to the code the flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. And, since almost all of these rules fall under the Respect for the Flag entry, I would think this dog hat is rather disrespectful:

As far as "patriotic t-shirts" go, have a look at this infant/toddler shirt:

It comes in sizes as small as 6 months. And, clearly someone that young is going to be learning to crawl and spending a lot of time on the ground. The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor... Hmm. I think THIS particular piece of flag-clothing is going to spend a LOT of time being right there on the floor. In addition to being forbidden as clothing or drapery, the flag ALSO shouldn't be considered part of a costume: No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. I guess that means that Ms. Parton's intended patriotism went wrong right from the start:

But, as wrong as this is (on many levels, too), it pales in comparison to - you guessed it! - flag lingerie.

Why, I get a patriotic stiffy just LOOKING at this hot little Betsy Ross. Not sexy enough for ya? Covers to much? Well, how about THIS clam-shell?

C'mon...find me a red-blooded all-American male who wouldn't hoist a salute (tee-hee!) for this patriotic pussy-cover!

From the same site are available these hot fuck-me boots:

Which, for all that they break the Flag Code, I must admit I find rather appealing. Not SEXY, mind you, but cool in a sort of so-awful-it's-great kind of way. Reminds me of everyone's favourite Amazonian princess:

I don't know if Ms. Carter's get-up here is supposed to be the FLAG, per se...but who gives a shit?? She looks great! On the other hand, one of America's most enduring superheroes of World War II is CLEARLY decked out in the flag:

Kind of a shame, isn't it? Such an iconic costume (I even include the ridiculous buccaneer boots in that statement)...such a blatant violation of the Code.

Those who know me - and perhaps even regular readers who DON'T - will certainly recognize my familiar brand of facetiousness in this post. I understand the principle of patriotism with the presentation of all these flag-related items (well, except perhaps for the thong), but I'm also a rules kind of guy. I want people to adhere to the rules that are set down, to understand them and then not ignore them, but abide by them. In this, modern American "patriots" are a lot like many modern American "Catholics," who claim to BE that thing, but ignore so many of the rules that it borders on lunacy. If the Pope is the voice of God on Earth, and if the Pope says GOD says you can't use birth control...well, then you can't use birth control. If the Flag Code says you have to treat the flag with respect (as it's considered a symbol of our "living country"), then you probably shouldn't use it to cover your count.


Blogger kat said...

Yee-haw! I smell what you're steppin' in. While I'm sure I've broken the rules here and there, I don't go off claiming that people are un-patriotic if they don't dress themselves in head-to-toe stars-n-stripes.

I also think the political bullshit of wearing or not wearing a flag lapel pin needs to be aired out. Wouldn't wearing a pin expressly for political reasons be, in a way, advertising one's patriotism? We are, after all, shopping for new representatives in our government.

10:30 AM  
Blogger Steph said...

I can’t believe they just planted a flag in your front yard without even asking. WTF?!?

The real flag rules sure do expose the hypocrisy of a lot of flag-wavers, but I think the Catholicism analogy is a little simplistic. Organized religion just doesn’t work quite this way. It’s probably the postmodernist coming out in me, but look: Saying that you’re Catholic can mean any number of things. To some people, it means that you follow the Pope and obey every dictate of the church to the best of your ability. To others, it might mean that you think the Pope is a flawed human being that you disagree with on stuff but you grew up Catholic and going to services nourishes your soul in some way you don’t need to fully understand, so you do it anyway. Is one person more Catholic than the other? By one definition, yes. But if you assert that the only true members of a particular faith are the ones that unerringly follow the rules set down by that faith, and that everyone else who claims that faith is by definition inconsistent and/or a hypocrite, you’re going to get lost, because rules always have hidden ambiguities, particularly in religion. Beyond that, defining religion by the parameters of rules cuts off, oh, about three-fourths of the culture of any given faith. Catholicism, for instance, has an incredible history of intrafaith dissent, as well as a near-infinite number of local interpretations that would probably give the Pope a heart attack.

The real problem, it seems to me, is when you identify yourself as someone who follows all the rules, exert judgment over other people for not following the rules, support policy that punishes other people for not following these supposedly sacred rules, and then secretly break the rules yourself. But identifying yourself as a follower of a given set of rules is not the same thing as calling yourself a Catholic, or an American.

Sorry for the soapbox. This whole rules/definitions thing is related to a post I’m working on (plus other work I have done/am doing) so I have it on the brain already.

8:39 AM  
Blogger Animal said...

I dunno Steph; I guess (not being a religious person myself, in the standard definition) that in this instance I DO see things as being that simplistic. Fudging the rules of Catholicism so that one can live according to one's personal tastes seems like it would create so many offshoots that the definition of being "Catholic" loses its very meaning. I think a person should be able to go to a Catholic service and be welcomed there in order to receive soul nourishment...but if that person doesn't believe that the Pope is here to deliver God's word and will...well, then, that person ain't really Catholic.

I guess "the rules" are there for reasons, and if enough people no longer follow them, then the rules should be changed; but, to claim that they ARE important, and then not follow them...well, that doesn't seem very ambiguous to me. Either follow the tenets of your faith or change them for ALL...or, create an offshoot faith that uses YOUR rules. But let's not have an infinity (or, infinity minus one, if you will) of different interpretations and then call all those things THE SAME.

I'm anxious to read your post; I'm sure you'll be, as ever, enlightening. C'mon, give me another way to look at things! Break me out of my mindframe! ;-)

9:26 AM  
Blogger Steph said...

/rubs hands together in let's-get-down-to-business anticipation/

I promise a post on this by the end of the day, unless I lose electricity due to the crazy thunderstorms that are about to smack us.

10:02 AM  

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