Saturday, June 6, 2020

Flag Respect vs Real Issues

Respect for the flag is back in the news and is supplanting reporting about coronavirus (no, it has not gone away) and social injustice. Although the discussion which generated the respect for the flag conflict was social injustice, it seems that conveniently this underlying issue has been dropped.

I learned a new word this morning, vexillologist: a person who studies flags. 

Drew Brees
 The subject of respect for the flag is back in the news with Drew Brees and the president exchanging their differences in the media. 

The statements for documenting this discussion are contained in a CNN report which can be accessed at the link. 

Brees' comments come after he initially said Wednesday he would "never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag." He later issued an apology for his comments saying his comments were "insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country."
President Donald Trump then got involved and said Brees should have never backtracked on his comments. 
"He should not have taken back his original stance on honoring our magnificent American Flag," Trump tweeted. "OLD GLORY is to be revered, cherished, and flown high..."
Brees then took to Instagram, saying that "we can no longer use the flag to turn people away or distract them from the real issues that face our black communities." 
"Through my ongoing conversations with friends, teammates, and leaders in the black community, I realize this is not an issue about the American flag. It has never been," Brees' post read. "We can no longer use the flag to turn people away or distract them from the real issues that face our black communities."

But, about the flag, here is the really interesting part. A noted vexillologist wrote an an article titled, What Does It Mean To Disrespect The U.S. Flag?. In that article he highlights a flag display in The Art Institute of Chicago and one of the comments about it, “Why are we so OK with homeless people being on the ground, but not flags?”

He goes on to write:

In fact, it was this art piece that partially led to a landmark Supreme Court decision in 1990 that established the U.S. Flag Code as just a guideline, not an enforceable law.
Now you cannot be punished for placing a flag on the ground, burning a flag, or wearing one as a bikini. And that is a good thing, not just for your first amendment rights, but because we break the flag code literally every day.
He goes on to write about the kneeling during the National Anthem: 

We all remember the controversy around Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players kneeling during the national anthem. This breaks the U.S. Flag Code Title 36, Subtitle I, Part A section 301, which states: “(C) all other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart…” It’s a clear violation, but totally legal.

Yet during the same anthem, sometimes in the same stadium, often a giant flag is spread over the field and held parallel to the ground by a host of volunteers.

This act violates subsection 8. “Respect for flag” Part C which reads: “The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.” A few minutes later when the teams run out, you’ll sometimes see the flag as part of their uniform. Another clear violation. Part J reads: “No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform.”
He goes on later to begin to conclude:

So what offends me the most as a flag researcher is when people decide who is represented by the flag and who isn’t — when they use it as an identity weapon against a self-defined out-group. Kneeling for the anthem, letting the flag touch the ground, all of those things just break an unenforceable guideline. Changing the flag’s meaning to represent something other than unity, however, is a desecration of the flag’s intent, purpose and design.

Let's be clear, it is not about the flag. Making it about the flag diminishes and obscures the real issue. The real issue, which is contained in the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, as prescribed in the Flag Code, is ensuring ". . . with liberty and justice for all."

Black Lives Matter

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

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