A new movie called First Man is about the Apollo 11 mission as seen through the eyes of Neil Armstrong. Before the movie even made it to theaters, flag-waving crazy people have been up in arms about the fact that the moment when Neil plants the flag on the moon isn’t shown.
Of course, in the trailer itself, you see the flag all over the place. On the back walls of NASA, on the sleeves of the astronauts, on the side of the rocket. But these don’t seem to matter to the fervent flag crazies. It’s all about the flag being planted on the moon. Not showing that is simply un-American.
I. Could. Care. Less.
Yes, I love our flag. I was raised to respect it, to stand when it is present and to honor what it means. I even served admirably on the Flag Detail at McKnight Middle School. I was one of the few, the proud, tasked with raising and lowering the flag in front of the school, and to beat holy hell when it started raining so that it could be taken down.
This is required by our U.S. Flag Code. The flag cannot be flown in the rain nor in the gloom of night (without illumination). There are pages of code, in fact, telling us how to display, decorate and even destroy the American flag.
As of late, people have even become confused about what the flag stands for. Sorry, it and the National Anthem doesn’t stand for the U.S. troops. Protesting American policies or discrimination by taking a knee is not showing disrespect for the troops. Hell, there are even many veterans who will tell you outright that they didn’t fight for the flag, but for our freedoms, which are separate and distinct from the fabric so many hold onto so dearly, almost choking it to death.
I get how people can get confused. The Flag Code says the flag is actually a living thing. As such, you can’t hang it on the side of a car or on the back of a parade float. You can’t hang it on the side of your house either. You can’t use it as a decoration.
I doubt even a third of those who fervently rally around Old Glory even know or follow half the rules. Case in point. Every 4th of July you see everything wrapped in the stars and stripes. Not representative art, but the flag. This flies in the face of the code, folks. It specifically prohibits the use of the flag for commercial purposes, advertisements or costuming. If it looks like the flag, you can’t print it or use it on clothing. The only allowed use is as a patch, much like those the astronauts wore on their spacesuits in that supposedly un-American movie.
Every week, tens of thousands of football fans stand to honor the flag as a football-field-sized incarnation of it is ceremoniously rolled out. There’s just one problem. The U.S. Flag Code specifically prohibits the flag being carried or displayed flat unless it is used in the draping and undraping of a coffin. It must be allowed to fly freely at all times.
Last Thursday, as Hurricane Florence rolled through the Carolinas, I watched the live feed from the Frying Pan Shoals Tower light. The American flag was flying free true, but in the wind and rain, which is against the Flag Code. It continued to fly into the darkness without a light shining on it, which as I said, is another Flag Code violation.
Yes, we love our flag. Perhaps we love it just a little too much. Some of us are just a little off the rails about the whole thing, becoming the judge and jury for others about what it means to respect or desecrate the flag.
It is, in the end, just a flag. Having Old Glory flying over your home on a 20-foot flagpole doesn’t make you more patriotic or more American than the guy who takes a knee at a football game. Wearing an American flag shirt doesn’t make you more American either. In fact, it puts you on an equal plane with the guy who burns the flag. Both acts are considered desecration.
Sorry, but I just don’t buy into this whole “my country right or wrong” crap. I understand American Exceptionalism and our flag kicks some serious ass in the design department. No offense France and Italy, but did you guys decide to save some money by hiring the same guy to do your flags? Three vertical blocks of color and only color is different. How long did it take your graphic designer to turn that thing out? One glass of wine or two?
I am a product of the Sixties. I grew up understanding that it is not only our right to question our government, but our solemn duty. So, I can’t help but question this blind allegiance to the flag while glossing over the rights it is meant to represent. These days I find it harder and harder to place my heart over my hand because others in this supposedly free land can’t stand it when someone chooses not to in silent protest or, horrors, burn it.
Spare me. I am no more and no less an American than any of you. I pay my taxes, obey most of the laws, and I am a strong supporter of our troops and the difficult work they do every day.
But I’m not about to jump on the MAGA Happy Train. I think America has been great all along, with all its bumps and bruises, creaks and moans, fits and fizzles. We have been the greatest country at times, and we have been one of the worst. We pull together when times are tough but then pick endlessly at one another like playground children when times are good. We have such potential, but we also are our own worse enemy.
So, let’s just put all the flag waving in its proper place. It’s good to love our flag, but don’t treat is like it’s some kind of god. Remember that biblical Commandment? You know, the one that says “Thou shalt not have false gods before thee.”
Let’s all keep things in perspective. If you do, then I promise that when the 4th of July rolls around, I will toast you with my red, white and blue Bud and watch as the sky as it fills with Made in China rockets with an American flag on the side, and celebrate what it means to be an American as we eat our hot dogs (from Germany), a slice of apple pie (England) and celebrate our collective and often selective ideas about what it means to be an American.
In the Emerald City, keeping my flag waving high at my house (granted, it’s a pirate flag),