Whats Causing a Big Red Flag?

Michaela Tarwater, Writer

Flag Etiquette

How much does the American public know about the history of the flag and/or proper flag etiquette? Most would agree, that the average American does not know enough about proper flag etiquette, or Flag Code. The flag is such an integral part of American culture, that everyone should know more about the history of the flag, and the proper etiquette when dealing with the symbol of America.

The American Flag today has 13 stripes, alternating six white stripes and seven red stripes, and has 50 stars, according to PBS. The stars represent states in the Union. The colors mean something too, with red meaning hardiness and valor, blue meaning vigilance and perseverance and justice, and finally white represents purity and innocence. The flag has become the symbol of America and even taking some of America’s trademarks as well, including freedom and liberty.

Kids are taught in elementary school that Betsy Ross designed the original American flag, although few historians would agree with that. It more likely that Congressman, Francis Hopkinson, most likely designed it, and Ross only sewed up the design. The First Flag Act of June 14, 1777, stated “That the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.” The act of April 4,1818 made the 13 stripes a confirmed amount and decreed that a star be added, on July 4th, for each admission of a new state. This act is still kept up today, but there were other changes, like the positions of the stars, that have been changed many times. According USflag.org, before the Executive Order of June 24, 1912, flags did not have exact proportions and the order of the stars was able to change. This meant that flags could be any size depending on the make of the flags. alternating six blue stripes and seven red stripes, and has 50 stars.

The American Flag has also inspired many songs, poems, speeches, and even essays. “The Star-Spangled Banner” was inspired after Francis Scott Key watched the attack on Fort McHenry, in Baltimore Harbor, and the American Flag prevailed even after 25 hours of attack on the Fort. Key was sure that the British would win, but after dawn’s early light shown on the American flag, Key was reassured. He wrote a poem called “Defence of Fort M’Henry”, and it was published in the Baltimore Patriot. The poem was so great it turned into a song, that turned into our Nation’s Anthem, and it was all inspired by a flag. The Pledge of Allegiance was originally a 22-word pledge written by socialist Francis Bellamy, but turned into the 31-word pledge we use today. It was a pledge that any country could use at first, but then “the Flag of the United States of America” were added, to make it more specific to the U.S.A.

Flag Etiquette, properly known as “Flag Code”, was passed on June 14, 1923. Before that, there was no standard way or regulation on how to display the flag. There are a lof rules under Flag Code, some more known than others. For instance, most people know that American Flags are usually displayed sunrise to sunset, although they can be left out all night if there is a light shining on the flag. But do people know that when the flag is displayed on a car, the staff shall be fixed firmly to the chassis or clamped to the right fender? West has seen its fair share of trucks with the American Flag on the trunk, but were all of those trucks following Flag Code?

The American Flag should also not be used as a part of a costume, athletic uniform, or general clothing. A Flag patch is acceptable on military, police, fireman, and patriotic organization members uniforms. Advertising should not include the flag, and commercial products shouldn’t use the flag on items that will be thrown away, including napkins, table cloths, tissue-paper, bags. Nobody should ever draw or write on the U.S. flag, and nobody should use the actual flag as decoration. It is recommended to not carry the flag flat, as it should always be allowed to flow freely and never be restrained.

Although the code may seem like a law, it is not. Flag Code is merely a guideline. There are no fines or penalties for not following Flag Code, although it is not a law, people may be very upset if certain suggestions of the Flag Code is not followed. Surprisingly nowhere in Flag Code does it say that you must stand for the pledge or the anthem. Even if it did say to stand for the National Anthem, it would only be a suggestion and not a law. Flag Code does recommend facing the flag and putting your right hand over your heart, on the upper left part of your body. With Kaepernick kneeling, the question of “What does respecting the flag consist of?” was prompted. After reading this article, hopefully the answer is more clear. Whether you choose to defile the flag, or stand and salute for the Pledge of Allegiance, there are no legal consequences. Do what feels right when it comes to respecting the flag, as there is legally no wrong or right way to respect the flag.