Freedom/Privacy

Malkin finds flag desecration; ignores it when convenient

obama-flagMichelle Malkin, and her commenters, are complaining that Obama supporters have desecrated the flag. She’s right, of course – that’s technically flag desecration, and she’s got the Flag Code section quoted to prove it.

But if you’re all pissed off about that, how about Olympic athletes wrapping themselves in the flag? Or flag napkins? Or a car painted as a flag? Flying a flag in the rain or leaving it up overnight unlit? Flag beach towels? Flags on campaign buttons? In every case, that’s mistreatment of the U.S. flag, according to the Flag Code.

According to the US Code, Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 8, “Respect for the flag”:

(b) The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.

So much for those beach towels.

(d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery
(j) No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform.

And so much for flag clothing.

(h) The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.
(i) It should not 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.

And there goes those campaign buttons, napkins, cups, and plates.

(e) 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.

And given how dirty cars get (pigeons, insects, road grime, slush), you’d think that a flag paint job on a car would qualify as “easily soiled.”

As for displaying the flag, let’s not forget that all-weather flags are OK in bad weather, but no flag should be displayed unlit overnight – it’s disrespectful, and against US Code Title 4 Chapter 1 Section 6.

Tell you what – you don’t question the patriotism of Obama’s supporters and I won’t question the patriotism of all the Olympic athletes who have soiled a flag with their sweat, of all the swimmers who have lain on a flag beach towel, of all the patriots who throw millions of flags away on the Fourth of July every year. Deal?

Image credit: Baltimore Sun

22 replies »

  1. I agree with your remarks about Olympic athletes draping themselves with a flag. But some of the other examples are not use of an actual flag. Strictly speaking it would seem reasonable that the flag code outlines use of an actual US flag not a likeness of it.

  2. You forgot bikini bottoms.

    I’m with you, Brian, and while it may just be representations that we’re surrounded with, i still find all the representations disrespectful. The flags everywhere make the real thing cliched when it should have power…it is a totem after all. But i’m just one guy standing against the tide of pseudo-patriotism.

  3. Stanford – The flag code defines the flag as “thirteen horizontal stripes, alternate red and white; and the union of the flag shall be forty-eight stars, white in a blue field,” increased by two stars since the code was written. So anything that fits that description is certainly a flag, even if it’s not intended to be displayed as a flag.

    Some of the examples (like the car) may or may not be likenesses. But trying to argue what is and is not a flag is a tricky business – since an actual flag wasn’t produced and then printed over with Obama’s face, are the flags shown in the image above “real” flags or “likenesses”? If a paper napkin doesn’t have all 13 stripes and all 50 stars, is it a likeness? How about a towel that contains all 13 stripes and 50 stars, but only on one side? And if one-sided flags are “likenesses,” then that means military patches are only “flags” because they’re specifically mentioned in the code. And is a US flag with a peace symbol instead of stars a “likeness” or a “flag?”

    “Flag” vs. “flag likeness” is very much in the eye of the beholder, and so we should be careful about what we call by the emotionally loaded word “desecration.”

  4. Lex – like Malkin and conservatives, it does bug me that Obama’s supporters did that, because it’s as disrespectful as a napkin in my view. But you can’t pick and choose what is and is not disrespectful, at least not if you’re quoting the US Flag Code as your basis.

    I mind less that Malkin et al are complaining about the flags in that image than I do how they fail to complain in all those other situations.

  5. Right, how about we spend more time worrying about restoring the Rights associated with the citizenship offered to those that claim this nation’s flag? Maybe some obligations too. Just thinking…

  6. Yes, I voted for Obama. I believe in him. But yes, I consider this a desecration and I do not like it. In fact, it disturbed me. It is a little too much for me.

  7. Brian-Me too. I see no difference between the picture above and wiping the BBQ sauce that’s dribbled down your chin at the 4th of July picnic with a stars and stripes napkin.

    And i’m with you, Dawn. I think that our responsibilities, rights and privileges have been treated the same was as the flag.

  8. Both George Bush and John McCain have made a habit of autographing small American flags. That clearly violates the Code, but as far as I know, Malkin hasn’t made a peep about that.

  9. Brian, thanks for not taking me to task on the ‘print’ part. I hastily read the code presented. Had already submitted the comment. We can probably all agree that ‘creative’ uses of the US flag is not a good idea. As for the current row, I don’t agree with those adding inaugural or campaign items to what appears to be an actual flag but at the same time agree criticism must be balanced. So, let’s all recite the Pledge of Allegiance and call it a day.

  10. I appreciate the reasonable views that are represented at least by the posts I’ve read. I agree that even as the “Obama-fied” flags show a certain lack of respect for the flag as the symbol of our nation, at least on the part of some of his supporters, other examples of “code-infringement” abound in this country, but aren’t given a moment’s notice. The above article cites a couple examples of this, but there are others that bother me even more than a car paint job, or an athlete draping him/her self in the flag. Has anyone ever though about how many cheap, Chinese-made American flags are casually thrown away in every city in this country on what should be our most significant and solemn day of national pride and reflection? Almost every one of those flags that is vigorously waved by smiling pseudo-patriots on the 4th of July is summarily tossed aside or left on the grass of Town Park by the 5th. In the two weeks after 9/11 I stopped and picked up off the pavement at least two of those quaint little car-top flags that were so popular back then, and saw a great many more than that flying in tatters, forgotten even while they struggled to cling to their chintsy plastic “poles.”
    I think that each of these examples generally results from a common cause, and that is that, in the patriotic excitement that accompanies such remarkable events as an American winning 8 gold medals, or a nation electing its first black president, people who don’t know about a “flag code” can’t be expected to follow its tenants. Without sounding cheesy, I think what generally matters more is whether the violation is a shameless attempt at commercial gain, or a genuine mistake, made while expressing true national pride. Plenty of people who are upset by these flags have no time in their day to ensure that their own flag at home is brought down every night and carefully folded, or have any problem with a Harley jacket portraying a tattered flag being carried in the talons of an eagle. Let’s try to give people the benefit of the doubt, and try to be a little more consistent in our own lives.

  11. I’m quite sure that napkins, plates, and campaign buttons are not, in fact, real flags. The code is to put forth treatment of legit U.S. flags, like those at athletic facilities, schools, government buildings, etc. It would be nice to see a discussion where adults don’t use such immature examples.

  12. By your argument, though, flag lapel pins aren’t real flags either, yet they’re specifically identified in the code as flags. So if a lapel pin is a real flag and a military uniform patch is a real flag, then by what logic do you claim that napkins printed with flags on them aren’t? Especially when, if you read the code I quoted above, says:

    It should not be… printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard.

    It seems like a flag printed on a napkin actually is a flag after all, at least according to the flag code.

  13. Thank you! I’ve been seeing links to her blog all ove the conservative websites, and all the “unpatriotic” remarks have been driving me crazy! I think it’s kind of tacky, myself, but like others have said- it wasn’t an actual flag that was altered (unlike GW’s signed flags), it was printed that way, so it’s not actually a flag. And if you’re going to follow that code to the letter, wouldn’t the 9/11 flag containing the names of all those fallen also be questionable (http://www.flickr.com/photos/gx9/1589161398/)?

  14. Dan, I agree with you that we should investigate the intent of the person using the flag in a disrespectful manner. If they’re trying to be respectful but failing, then a polite “excuse me, but did you know that you’re not supposed to be doing that to the U.S. flag?” is more appropriate than anger.

    Still, it annoys me when I see protesters burning a flag treating it with more “respect” as they destroy it than many patriots treat the flag when they’re trying to be patriotic. Such speaks legions about our country’s utter lack of social studies education (NCLB focuses on reading, writing, science, and mathematics – no room in there for history or civics, something that is already biting us on our collective butt).

  15. As a parting thought on this exceptional post and healthy discussion a little humor is offered. In reference to Ann’s comment if anyone else prefers to omit the ‘under God part’ you might want to hedge your bets.

  16. Under god, and “of America”..

    both bits were added after the fact by people other than the author.

    I don’t pledge the flag because the flag isn’t “commonly held” to be what it was meant to be. We had that talk about the word “Zionism”, and how things change over time. And it’s also my way to protest (instead of burning a flag, for example).. exercise my rights.. and make sure I’m standing out from the sheeple around me that have no clue why they are engaging in mindless nationalistic “America is #1!” rhetoric. .. like the guy that got tossed from a ballgame because he didn’t say the pledge? Seriously? Fascist, much?

    The masses in America have no _real_ love of her, they only parrot what they think they should say, and do things like wipe their fat slobbery gluttonous faces with the flag on the 4th (as pointed out here already).

    No, the flag is being used as a tool to incite emotional responses, and attempt bragging rights. I refuse to be a part of that at all, in any regard. And with so many idiots out there content to not care, there’s pretty much nothing those who do care can do about it. I fear the soul of America is dead and gone, gobbled up in maniacle consumerism and capitalism. Rights and freedoms aren’t important, profit margins are all that matter. If that’s what that flag is meant to represent today, no thanks.

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