The annual refresher course on U.S. flag etiquette

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When the U.S. flag is placed horizontally or vertically, the union (the 50 stars) is to the observer’s left.

BY TED SHOCKLEY, Eastern Shore Post —

With Memorial Day approaching and Independence Day coming soon, now seems an appropriate time for my annual refresher course on U.S. flag etiquette.

As we all know, our society these days doesn’t much concern itself with matters of etiquette.

(Remember: The knife, blade facing the dinner plate, goes on the right, with the fork on the left. The spoon goes to the right of the knife.)

But we are much more enthusiastic about national pride than we are proper place settings.

So every flag-waving, red-white-and-blue American should have a working knowledge of the U.S. flag code.

It is my foremost pet peeve: Seeing people who profess a love and allegiance to the United States of America but are clueless about how to display and handle the country’s storied symbol.

Some people think everyone in the United States should speak English. I think everyone in the United States should correctly display the U.S. flag.

My research shows that while people mean well when they display U.S. flag, some still manage to bungle it.

These might be the same folks who beam with patriotic pride when they hear songs like “This Land is Your Land,” by Woodie Guthrie, or “Born in the U.S.A.,” by Bruce Springsteen.

Both protest songs contain insightful lyrics that force listeners to confront our country’s deeper issues.

But both songs are frequently mistaken for prideful, celebratory patriotic anthems.

The point is: When you incorrectly display the U.S. flag — or don’t know the lyrics to “Born in the U.S.A.” — you come across as blissfully unknowing and numb to the artful.

On the Eastern Shore, we can do better than that. When it comes to love and respect for our country, let’s not put our ignorance on display.

All of us know the U.S. flag should not touch the ground and old flags should be discarded in a dignified manner, like burning.

But there are many more regulations to heed. According to the U.S. flag code:

— On Memorial Day, the flag is displayed at half staff until noon and then raised to the top of the staff.

— When the U.S. flag is placed horizontally or vertically, the union (the 50 stars) is to the observer’s left.

— The flag should never touch anything beneath it.

— The flag should never be used as clothing.

— The U.S. flag only flies from sunrise to sunset. It may be displayed 24 hours a day if illuminated by lights.

— The flag should not be displayed on a float in a parade except from a staff.

— The flag should not be draped over the hood, top, sides, or back of a automobile, train, or boat.

— The flag is never used as the covering for a statue or monument. When covering a casket, the union is at the head and over the left shoulder.

— The flag should never be printed on cushions, handkerchiefs, paper napkins, or anything designed for temporary use and then discarded.

I’m looking forward to seeing some excellent flag etiquette around the Eastern Shore as we display our American pride.

— The writer is editor of the Eastern Shore Post. Reach him at [email protected].

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