The continuing controversy over players' protests in the National Football League unavoidably focuses in part on the subject of flag etiquette, which does not — repeat: DOES NOT — redound to the moral benefit of some pseudo-patriots. You see, there's an unofficial code of etiquette regarding proper treatment of the American flag, but relatively few […]
The continuing controversy over players' protests in the National Football League unavoidably focuses in part on the subject of flag etiquette, which does not — repeat: DOES NOT — redound to the moral benefit of some pseudo-patriots.
You see, there's an unofficial code of etiquette regarding proper treatment of the American flag, but relatively few of us observe it in every respect. Most people generally are ignorant of all the particulars of the code. We don't know the myriad details of how and when our national banner should — and should not — be displayed.
A little historical background is in order here at this point:
In 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that laws against flag burning and other forms of desecration are unconstitutional because they infringe on free-speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. The deciding vote was cast by Justice Antonin Scalia, the famed uber-conservative who died suddenly early last year. (Strangely, most of Scalia's right-wing admirers have little or nothing to say about his defense of flag-burning. Some of them probably are unaware of Scalia's role — mainly because the right-wing media had little or nothing to say about it.)
And, of course, if flag-burning is a protected form of free expression, so, too, are virtually all violations of an unofficial code of flag etiquette. The code says, for example, that the flag should not be worn as clothing, but millions of Americans frequently wear T-shirts and other items of apparel bearing images of our national flag. And almost nobody makes a fuss about it.
What fusses about flag etiquette we do experience generally are the province of people who see themselves as more patriotic than thou. But some of these same people often seem oblivious to what the flag is supposed to represent. If the flag stands for American rights and freedoms, it's hypocritical to use it in a campaign against free speech.
Of course, people who want to observe all the particulars of the flag code will have to do a little homework. The details of how and when the flag should be presented are numerous and not necessarily widely known. For example, there are numerous unofficial rules regarding lighting and placement of the flag in various circumstances, but they're often ignored.
In my book, the worst examples of flag-desecration are those in which our national colors are intended to represent an effort to silence dissent. You don't have to burn the flag to dishonor it.
And don't get me started on these ridiculous claims that American military personnel who died in our wars gave their lives for the flag. That's an insult. In truth, they presumably died in defense of the noble principles the flag is supposed to represent.