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Commentary: Flag Etiquette

By Joan Healy

Buffalo, NY – Maybe it wouldn't seem so absurd if they weren't so incessant about waving the flag and wrapping themselves in it. Does no one in this administration know anything about flag etiquette? I know not many served any time in the military, but was no one a boy scout or a girl scout? Did not at least one of them, at one time in their life, take a course in how to display the flag of this country in the proper manner? There was a time when it was taught in grammar school. Maybe we have to start doing that again.

First I saw the picture in the paper of our troops in Iraq and there on their sleeves for all to see was the United States ensign flying backwards ( the blue field was in the upper right hand corner). To add insult to injury, a corps patch was displayed over the ensign. That is anathema. The American flag is always displayed with the blue field in the upper left hand corner and it is always higher than any other flag because it is the most important.

Then during the week of July 20 I saw an AP photo of George W. Bush writing on a flag. The caption stated, President Bush signs flags for workers. This occurred on July 23 in Livonia, Michigan at the Beaver Aerospace and Defense plant. Who, pray tell, thought this one up? Did someone on his staff say we don't have any scrap paper. Let's just use a flag. Or was it supposed to be more patriotic to have the presidential autograph on a flag?

Writing on a the U. S. ensign is flag desecration. The Uniform Flag Code states, The flag should never have placed on it or attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, number, figure or drawing of any kind . How many flags, I wonder, did the president desecrate on that day?

It seems to me that there are those in this administration who are trying to sell the idea that the only way to be patriotic is to wave a flag. Of course that's much easier than doing other things such as trying to conserve energy or educating ourselves on foreign policy and what our government is doing or even voting. And because many in the media reinforce this idea, we see the general population falling all over themselves to prove that they are patriotic by waving a flag. It's good for business. Someone has to make and then sell all those flags, flag decals and posters that say God Bless America. What is more American, a.k.a., Patriotic, than consumerism.

I continually see cars roaring past at 60 miles an hour with flags attached to them and I know that these drivers think that having a flag on their car makes them patriotic. They should read the flag code which states, The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used or stored in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled or damaged in any way . Flags blowing in the breeze at 60 miles an hour are soon damaged. But then if those in the administration can ignore the Flag Code, why not the general public.

Because of the way the flag is so shamelessly used, to sell everything from TV news casts where anchormen wear flag pins in their lapels to sporting events where every team jersey now has a flag on it, it's true meaning is being lost. It's displayed everywhere and is starting to lose meaning because it is so ubiquitous. Not too long ago there was talk about an amendment to the constitution to ban flag burning. If that is brought up again will they also add flag desecration? And if they do, will George Bush be one of the first people charged?

Listener-commentator Joan Healy lives in East Aurora.