It’s time we stop disrespecting our flag

Published 12:22 pm Thursday, February 9, 2023

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I can spot a person who isn’t knowledgeable about flag etiquette from a mile away, and I knew I was looking at one the day I saw the American flag stretched out on the dashboard of a pickup truck, like its job was to protect the owner’s “Made in China” faux leather dashboard.


He might have thought he was showing his patriotism. Maybe he thought that someone would walk past, see Old Glory across his dash and think he was showing those left-wing commies where he stood. But he wasn’t. He revealed his lack of true patriotism.

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As the political seasons have turned coarse in America, and the once noble act of government service has morphed into a fratricidal burning of our houses and branches of government, I have watched people use the American flag as if it were a bedsheet lifted from a foul-smelling flophouse in the Bowery instead of the shining symbol of freedom fought for and died for in some God-forsaken jungle or on a hillside in Afghanistan or on some foreign shore. That’s not patriotism.


Who hasn’t seen the American flag violated with the addition of someone’s face?  Or by the RV or auto sales dealership flying a gargantuan flag so large that it cannot be flown at half-staff when another hero dies in the line of duty. Those are purely and simply violations of all the rules we have for protecting and respecting the American flag. That’s not patriotism.


For the first time last summer, as the pandemic was winding down, there was a flurry of holiday parades all through the little towns around here that we call home. A happy time for many, but a sad time for those who respect the flag. We watched speechless as people on one float let the flags on homemade staffs drag in the street. Others had too-large flags on their floats, causing some to touch the ground. Flags were draped over the backs of convertibles. That’s not patriotism.


Two years ago I drove past one of our volunteer fire stations and couldn’t help but notice that the flag on a pole of questionable integrity was beaten to shreds. The second time I passed the station the flag was even more tattered and torn by the wind. I thought surely they must be aware of such a prominent display of neglect and had ordered a replacement. After weeks went by, one day I noticed there was a new pole and flag out front. They finally got it right, but not until they had gotten it wrong for a long time. The right thing to do was take the flag down once it began to tear, even if there was no replacement on hand. That’s respectful.

There are many rules in the U.S. Flag Code for protecting and respecting the flag. You can Google them for yourself, but my go-to common sense rule is this: treat the flag as though it were alive. Don’t hurt it, abuse it, or alter it. Remember that people died for it.


And then you can call yourself a patriot.


Larry McDermott is a local retired farmer/journalist. Reach him at