Happy Birthday America! Flag Etiquette

“The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing.”


Happy birthday to this great country!  As completely crazy and divided as Americans sometimes are (or at least ACT), I think if you sat most down, they would agree it is a lucky accident of birth (or a conscious act, for those who chose to come here) that we call ourselves Americans.  Although I have said, both publicly and privately, that I dream of living in England someday, I’m not talking about, like, FOREVER, or anything.  One of the most moving ceremonies I have ever witnessed is the swearing-in of new citizens at the Seattle Center every Fourth of July.  If your town has something like it, check it out!  It will give you a little extra pride in being an American.

Today’s post will take a special trip down etiquette history and how old-fashioned procedures are still in use today.  Most flag laws were written hundreds of years ago, with very little change.  For instance, the right hand over the heart for the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag dates to during Medieval times,, when the right hand was sometimes marked if you were a felon.  To raise, or draw attention, to your right hand was to show your honestly (or lack there-of) and became the hand of truth.

The quote above is directly from the United States Code Title 4 Chapter 1.  The flag, as a living thing.  It certainly makes the image of a soldier’s flag covered coffin seen in a different light, doesn’t it?  Perhaps a protective, and loving embrace?  Of the image of a country in distress, with the flag flying upside down.  A living entity hanging upside down gives the symbolism a much more painful, and dire, meaning.

Now on to some useful flag etiquette!

  • When flying the flag from a vehicle, attach it to the antenna, clamp the flagstaff to window, or drape the right fender or side.  Remember this as it relates to holding your right hand over your heart while saying the Pledge of Allegiance.
  • The flag can only be flown at night if properly illuminated. Otherwise, it should only be flown from sunrise to sunset.
  • When the flag is lowered, no part of it should touch the ground or any other object; it should be received by waiting hands and arms. To store the flag it should be folded neatly and ceremoniously.
  • Hang the U.S. flag above any other flag on the same flagpole.
  • Hang the flag vertically in a window or draped over a building, with the blue field of stars to the left as someone OUTSIDE the building is seeing it.
  • When The U.S. flag is placed next to or behind a speaker, such as a podium at the office or at school, the U.S. flag should be on the speaker’s right.
  • The American flag should be always be held upright and should never be dipped to any person or thing.  Anyone remember the brew-ha-ha over dipping the flag, or not, to Queen Elizabeth at the 2012 Olympic Games?
  • On Memorial Day, the flag should be hung at half-staff until noon, when it should be raised to the top of the staff.  Honestly, I am not sure I have ever seen this done, but will be watching next May, that is for sure!
  • The flag should be cleaned and mended when necessary, and NEVER thrown away!
  • When a flag is so worn it is no longer fit to serve as a symbol of our country, it should be destroyed by burning.

Most importantly, let your flag fly this holiday.  Have  BBQ, watch a parade, thank a service member, and enjoy the fireworks tonight.


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