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Respect the flag & you’re respecting sacrifices made on your behalf

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POSTED July 2, 2009 1:34 a.m.
There is no law governing what you can and cannot do to the American flag.

No law exists against burning the flag either in protest or just because one wants to do so.

It is extremely debatable whether one really would want any law on the books tightly regulating how the flags displayed or used as criminalizing how the symbol of the nation is treated arguable would erode basic freedoms.

But given that, it is important to remember there has been a code of flag etiquette developed over the years to show deference not to the flag itself, but what it represents.

Several callers in the past few weeks have expressed dismay at watching people take down flags and drag them across the ground, crumple them up and generally treat them just like any other piece of cloth. Both readers said they doubt people are aware there is a flag code of etiquette that should be followed not out of respect for the flag, but what it represents.

I know, I know. Some people will disrespect the flag just to get in people’s faces. But this isn’t directed at them. They are beyond help since they are wrapped up in such a high pitched level of self-righteousness and self-absorption that they despise anything that doesn’t match their value system.

Instead, flag etiquette is for those who respect what the flag represents and don’t intentionally mean to not display proper respect.

The flag is a powerful symbol. One should respect it if for no other reason what it means to those who serve this nation in the Armed Forces or in public safety.

You will understand the power of the flag and what it means when you see the young widow of a slain police officer and their two children clutching the casket flag after it has been folded and presented to them at graveside. You will understand the power — and comfort — that flag gives them in saying a loved one laid their life down for their life unselfishly for others.

It doesn’t make up for the loss, but the flag — and the ceremony that goes with the presentation that is heightened  by how much most Americans respect the banner of freedom — does give comfort as it offers the respect of a grateful nation for the sacrifice that was made.

And if you aren’t struck by how powerful the flag is at such a graveside ceremony, you will be years later when you see the family proudly displaying that flag whether it is flying in front of their home, in a shadow box, or placed in a position of respect in their home.

The American Legion has an extensive pamphlet detailing flag etiquette and how it should be displayed. It would be nice if we all followed them.

But even if an effort is made to simply hit the major points in the pamphlet, it would show tremendous respect for the men and women who have died preserving our freedoms, liberties and opportunities we have in this nation.

•The U.S. flag should always be in the superior position and should never be eclipsed in size by another flag flying beside or below it. The worst faux paus in Manteca was about eight years ago when a fast food chain one day inadvertently flew the corporate flag above the U.S. flag.

•Avoid dragging a flag, wadding it or soiling it. There is a proper way to fold it as any Boy Scout can tell you, but simply doing so with respect without treating it like a meaningless piece of cloth should be adequate for most.

•When a flag is passing in a parade, accepted flag etiquette calls for all to stand at attention, those in uniform to salute, civilians wearing head gear such as caps to remove them and cross their heart with the cap resting on their left shoulder, hatless citizens to cross their heart with their right arm and aliens to simply stand at attention. The salute to the flag should be rendered at the moment the flag passes.

Obviously, you’re not going to do this any time a flag passes watching the Fourth of July parade. But when a unit — military or civilian — carries Old Glory past you it is a definite sign of respect.

Consider it a way of reminding yourself just how valuable freedoms, rights and liberties won by men and women who have fought under that banner really are. That banner has represented hope of people around the globe for over two centuries.

It represents all of us and the incredible opportunity we truly have here in the United States.

It is not a flag of royalty or one born in ethnic roots. Instead, it represents people of all backgrounds, persuasions and beliefs coming together to form a union.

Respect the flag and you’re respecting the sacrifices made by your forefathers, your parents, your neighbors and complete strangers.
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