It's getting increasingly difficult for me to attend public sporting events. Or any amusement park that begins the day by playing our National Anthem. Before the first notes are ever played, we should be standing at attention, hats removed, right hand over the heart, and if you don't know the words, then just be quiet and respectful. We know the words because we lived on an Air Force base for 2 years and the National Anthem played every day at 5 PM, even on the weekends, over a loud speaker that was mounted practically in our back yard. But when I stand for the playing of our National Anthem, I don't see people frantically removing their hats, putting away their phones and searching for which direction to face. I see families continuing their conversations and, worse, encouraging their kids to do the same. I see people texting and taking pictures, putting on makeup and eating snacks. The only time we've been beside someone who was familiar with National Anthem etiquette and knew the words, we were standing in the Waves of Honor line at Sesame Street Place. Otherwise, many (not all because that would be a sweeping statement that doesn't hold true) Americans fail to render the appropriate honors for our American flag and the National Anthem.
So, I ask...isn't that also a kind of protest? By not giving either one the respect they are intended, isn't that kind of the same thing as what the NFL players are doing? But, to be sure, many Americans are doing it for an entirely different reason. Either they are lazy, ignorant or just disrespectful humans in general. (If you aren't an American and don't consider this your country, I wouldn't expect you to show honor to a flag that isn't yours.) Regardless, they aren't doing it because they are desperate to have their voices heard. They aren't doing it to bring attention to a situation that has been spiraling out of control for years. At least...I don't think they are.
But the desecration of our flag has been going on for years. Here are just a few examples (no links to protect the not-so-innocent)...
So, to clear up any confusion about proper flag etiquette, I hopped on Military.com to get some guidance.
When displaying the flag, DO the following:
- Display the U.S. flag from sunrise to sunset on buildings and stationary flagstaffs in the open. When a patriotic effect is desired the flag may be displayed 24-hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.
- When placed on a single staff or lanyard, place the U.S. Flag above all other flags.
- When flags are displayed in a row, the U.S. flag goes to the observer’s left. Flags of other nations are flown at same height. State and local flags are traditionally flown lower.
- When used during a marching ceremony or parade with other flags, the U.S. Flag will be to the observer’s left.
- On special days, the flag may be flown at half-staff. On Memorial Day it is flown at half-staff until noon and then raised.
- When flown at half-staff, should be first hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position. The flag should be again raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day. By "half-staff" is meant lowering the flag to one-half the distance between the top and bottom of the staff.
- When the flag is displayed over the middle of the street, it should be suspended vertically with the union (blue field of stars) to the north in an east and west street or to the east in a north and south street.
- When placed on a Podium the flag should be placed on the speaker’s right or the staging area. Other flags should be placed to the left.
- When displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall (or other flat surface), the union (blue field of stars) should be uppermost and to the flag's own right, that is, to the observer's left.
- When displayed in a window it should be displayed in the same way -- with the union or blue field to the left of the observer in the street.
- When the flag is displayed on a car, the staff shall be fixed firmly to the chassis or clamped to the right fender.
- When the flag is used to cover a casket, it should be so placed that the union is at the head and over the left shoulder. The flag should not be lowered into the grave or allowed to touch the ground.
- All persons present in uniform (military, police, fire, etc.) should render the military salute. Members of the armed forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute.
- All other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, or if applicable, remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart.
- Fold in the traditional triangle for stowage, never wadded up.
- The VFW offers the following instructions for properly disposing of a worn flag:
- The flag should be folded in its customary manner.
- It is important that the fire be fairly large and of sufficient intensity to ensure complete burning of the flag.
- Place the flag on the fire.
- The individual(s) can come to attention, salute the flag, recite the Pledge of Allegiance and have a brief period of silent reflection.
- After the flag is completely consumed, the fire should then be safely extinguished and the ashes buried.
- Please make sure you are conforming to local/state fire codes or ordinances.
- Don’t dip the U.S. Flag for any person, flag, or vessel.
- Don’t let the flag touch the ground.
- Don’t fly flag upside down unless there is an emergency.
- Don’t carry the flag flat, or carry things in it.
- Don’t use the flag as clothing.
- Don’t store the flag where it can get dirty.
- Don’t use it as a cover.
- Don’t fasten it or tie it back. Always allow it to fall free.
- Don’t draw on, or otherwise mark the flag.
- Don’t use the flag for decoration. Use bunting with the blue on top, then white, then red.
For the record, Neal (and several other Servicemembers I've seen post on various Facebook posts) feel that just the act of protesting is a freedom that is afforded them by the brave men and women in our Armed Forces. They believe that protecting that freedom is worth fighting for and although some are disappointed in the way they are protesting, the point is, they have that freedom and they are exercising it. Would I be a little more understanding if some of those NFL players had ever deployed? Or even served on a USO tour? Absolutely. But they wanted our attention and now they have it. The question is...now what?
(One more thing...full disclosure...we draped a tiny yard flag over our newborn for about 5 minutes. It wasn't a full size flag, but still..it probably wasn't our best call. Would I do it again? No, I don't think I would. But I don't have any problem with decorating homes or bodies using flag-inspired patterns. Because, she really is a grand old flag.)