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Letter: Lessons in flag etiquette

Kooyer writes, "Even though considered protected free speech by the U.S. Supreme Court, usurping our collective, beloved, enduring emblem of democracy for the purposes of making a political statement is something in which thoughtful Americans of good character simply do not engage."

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I was glad to read the letter by Lois Schaefer, state Americanism chairman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary, Department of North Dakota, calling attention to flag etiquette in conjunction with Flag Day on June 14. While I appreciate Schaefer's concern that some may not know that flag etiquette requires proper attention—standing if able, doffing a hat, hand over heart—when the American flag passes by in a parade, for example, mistreatment of the flag, or alteration of the flag through the addition of images, are both increasingly commonplace and arguably more egregious. Examples include a U.S. flag draped over the bed of a pickup truck, or, soiled and torn, flapping from the rear of a semi-trailer. American flags trumped up with cartoon caricatures of a former president—or, for that matter, rainbow colors— should bother not just our honored veterans but every respectful American.

Patriotic letters to the editor
Lois Schaefer, state Americanism chairman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary Department of North Dakota, writes a column in recognition of Flag Day, June 14.

In that regard, while there are some who argue the thin blue line emblem is an appropriate symbol of appreciation for law enforcement, affixing it to the image of an American flag is not. The Federal Flag Code traces its beginnings to 1923 with input from several patriotic organizations, coordinated by the Americanism Commission of the American Legion. In its spring 2017 newsletter, the Commission states, “…this thin blue line is an added unauthorized adornment to the flag and is considered a breach of flag etiquette. The Americanism Commission does not endorse nor recommend its display.”

Even though considered protected free speech by the U.S. Supreme Court, usurping our collective, beloved, enduring emblem of democracy for the purposes of making a political statement is something in which thoughtful Americans of good character simply do not engage. The U.S. flag, unadorned, unaltered, hanging prominently and freely is what flag etiquette intends. It is what reverence on the last Monday in May demands. It is what the fourteenth day of June encourages, the nineteenth embraces, and it is what should rightfully, appropriately and patriotically be on full display on the fourth day of July.

Kurt Kooyer lives in West Fargo.

This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

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