Social Question

augustlan's avatar

Do countries other than the US have issues with how people treat their flag? Do you?

Asked by augustlan (47381points) July 14th, 2012

In the US, there is a lot of etiquette pertaining to our national flag. One of the rules states that: “The flag should not be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery, or for covering a speaker’s desk, draping a platform, or for any decoration in general (exception for coffins).”

Despite the rule, loads of people do decorate their homes with the flag in some interesting ways. The pictures I see on Pinterest that show the flag used in interior decorating generally get a pretty intense response. Probably about ¾ of the commenters are quite vocal about how disrespectful, disgraceful, and even shameful the practice is, with the other ¼ not understanding what the first people are so worked up about. (It seems to be a divide between older/younger people, military vets/non-vets, and maybe conservatives/liberals.)

How do you feel about this issue? Is it disrespecting the flag to hang it on the wall as art or use it as a bedspread or curtain? Is this type of thing important to people in other countries, too, or is it just an American thing?

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31 Answers

ucme's avatar

To think the union jack, a once proud standard which decorated the battlefields of history, should now be so belittled as it adorns the dining tables & tea-towels of the chattering classes.
Henry V will be turning in his grave, he always was a light sleeper.

tom_g's avatar

In my humble obnoxious opinion, people in the U.S. respect and spend more effort in protecting a symbol than actually respecting and protecting the values it supposedly represents.

I don’t respect symbols and I would have no problem doing anything with the U.S. flag.

zenvelo's avatar

I don’t know about the details in other countries. But it always seems that what is considered “respect” for the flag is dependent on one’s political leanings. Abby Hoffman went on trial for wearing a flag shirt while supposedly “patriotic” groups wear it all the time. Same with folding chairs in flag design; it’s just downright disrespectful but the people who use it declare them selves “patriotic.” I doubt they’d agree if the Occupy movement used them.

Cruiser's avatar

I am happy to say the majority of people I know do treat our flag with utmost respect and IMO as they should. I rarely see anyone mucking with out nations symbol and if they do…to each his own. I have been in enough parades and color guards and especially Memorial Day events to bear witness to the reverence, honor and respect many give to our flag especially the men and women who have served our country.

Trillian's avatar

Considering what a flag represents, I consider apparel, decoration, etc. to be disrespectful, though it is frequently not intended as such. People just don’t know any better. I, unlike others, would never show disrespect to the flag of my own country or to that of another country, regardless of how I feel about the people or their politics.

Jaxk's avatar

The flag is a symbol and when you disrespect the flag, you disrespect the country it stands for. Sometimes it is pure ignorance of the rules applied to the flag but usually it is to make a statement either good or bad. Same thing as standing during the National Anthem. Those who stand are showing respect for the country, those that don’t are showing disrespect. It’s not accidental, it’s intentional. Try wearing the flag across your ass in front of these guys.

ragingloli's avatar

Screw the flag. Crap on it, piss on it, burn it, either is fine.
It is an idol, a vessel of nationalism, and nationalism is a disease, a plague, a pest. Oh how I abhor it all. I will never honour the flag, or sing the national hymn. Might as well goose step in a parade. It is all the same.

tom_g's avatar

@Jaxk: “The flag is a symbol and when you disrespect the flag, you disrespect the country it stands for.”

But what does that even mean? Disrespecting a country? Does that mean that I am disrespecting the government of that country? The population as a whole? The military of a country? Certain socioeconomic classes within a country?

I don’t get it. Because I see all kinds of flag “respect”/worship from people that don’t seem to be capable of respecting their neighbors or anything other than might and the military.

Cruiser's avatar

@tom_g I would interpret any disrespect to our countries (USA) flag to mean to disrespect the very fiber of this countries greatness. Sure we have a few warts but this country was founded on courage to fight for freedoms no other country at the time was willing to afford it’s citizens. Since our founding we have had to defend the rights to these freedoms for us and others while flying the colors of this country. So when I see someone exercising their right to protest and even abuse this right and desecrate this flag…I see freedom but of those that do so I see cowardice and one who lacks the pride to warrant the protections and freedoms this country offers. People died to protect these colors of the flag and to desecrate the flag in anyway is to dishonor those who died, those who defend this countries freedom and those who work every day of their lives to support this great country. If you can’t show respect to this great flag, then get the hell out of the country.

tom_g's avatar

@Cruiser – Wow. And ouch. Well, clearly we have a completely different understanding or interpretation of U.S. foreign policy and its motivation. But that’s ok, right? So, if I feel that the government has acted less-than-honorable (I’m trying to be generous here) throughout its history, I can state this and still be a welcome citizen of this country, right? In fact, even if I object to current military actions of the government, I am still welcome, right? Or should the country be ideologically homogeneous?

@Cruiser: “People died to protect these colors of the flag and to desecrate the flag in anyway is to dishonor those who died, those who defend this countries freedom and those who work every day of their lives to support this great country.”

I know you have had a chance to be exposed to people who feel that men and women have been sent to kill and be killed and been told that it is to “protect freedom” or some other nonsense, right? Could you imagine what kind of “disrespect” it would be for someone like that (me) to not criticize the actions of the people who sent these kids to die? It’s my moral responsibility to be an adversarial force to keep my tax dollars in check to make sure that the people who run the government and military do not use my money to send my neighbors off to die (and kill) for complete bullshit.

@Cruiser: “If you can’t show respect to this great flag, then get the hell out of the country.”

Do you really feel this way? If someone chooses to burn a flag to protest the government’s decision to send kids to a foreign land for ____________ (I have edited out the details, because I don’t want to get sidetracked here. Just believe me that there are reasons some people might completely object.), should they “get the hell out of the country”?

This is really blowing my mind. Honestly.

Jaxk's avatar


So you believe that if you find fault with the government, you should shit on the country as a whole. Is that about it?

tom_g's avatar

@Jaxk: “So you believe that if you find fault with the government, you should shit on the country as a whole. Is that about it?”

Think about what you’re saying. Then elaborate on what you mean by shitting “on the country as a whole”.

Jaxk's avatar


I must admit, it’s hard for me to believe that you don’t know what the flag stands for. It represents the country and society in general. Germany has a fairly checkered past, yet the Germans (at least those that I’ve met) still love thier country. They still have found a way to take pride in their role in the world, the EU, thier country. I detest many of things Obama has done to this country but I still love it and take pride in being an American. If I want to protest, it will be against the things I think are wrong not the country as a whole. And certainly not against the flag that represents it. If you can’t find anything to like about your country, maybe you should find a country you do like.

tom_g's avatar

@Jaxk: “I must admit, it’s hard for me to believe that you don’t know what the flag stands for. It represents the country and society in general.”

“The country” is being used here. Do you mean the government?

ucme's avatar

Some Germans are such a sensitive bunch.

Buttonstc's avatar

Wow. I just read through that link and especially the section with all the prohibitions and now I’m thoroughly confused.

I was always under the impression (evidently wrong) that all the rules regarding how to hang the flag, proper disposal etc. referred to an actual flag which had been in use somewhere.

But then I read the part about not being printed on anything disosable like napkins, paper plates and such. And how often have we seen exactly that especially around July 4th or Memorial day partyware on sale all over with no one batting an eyelash about it?

Also, following 9/11 there were flag bumper stickers for sale and on cars all over the place. Isn’t that a prohibited commercial usage of the flag? Some people made a handsome profit from it.

And last time I checked, bumper stickers are pretty disposable, either getting scraped off before selling the car or scraped off after looking too ratty after years of exposure to all kinds of weather. So when was the last time you ever saw someone doing a proper burning disposal of a worn out flag bumper sticker (or even giving a second thought about scraping it off). Anyone care to comment on that? Don’t all chime in at once.

And yet these very same flag bumper stickers were definitely a means for many people to show their patriotism and solidarity in the aftermath of 9/11. What was so horribly wrong or unpatriotic about that? Or how is it so horrendously disrespectful to scrape it off when it starts looking too awful rather than taking a blowtorch to your bumper to “properly” dispose of it by burning (and risking an explosion from the gas tank of your car) ?

If they don’t want flag images sold, then crack down on those who manufacture and sell them.

How is the average citizen supposed to know the full intricacies of “the code of etiquette” and ALL of it’s multitudinous prohibitions. And exactly where does the line get drawn?

Having been in Girl Scouts for many years and taught the basics about respecting our flag, I thouht I knew what that meant. But after reading the full code, I guess not.

But we were taught about the actual flag itself, not every single thing on which an image of the flag could be put.

If YOU (govt. personnel or armed service vets) find all these other displays and uses of a flag image so horribly disrespectful, then why not ban them from being manufactured or used (either through passing laws or public demonstrations against them.)

If there are lines that need to be drawn or clarified, then do so in a definitive manner.

I’m Mott referring to people burning flags in protest or something. I’m referring to all the everyday stuff which is apparently so terribly disrespectful even tho there is no intent to be.

If you don’t want people wearing the flag on their asses, then don’t permit the marketing of clothing which enables it.

And if hats or shirts with flag images are considered disrespectful, don’t allow the sale of them and/or picket and protest the companies and stores selling them.

You can’t logically be critical of the people wearing them. If there were none to wear. That would solve the problem completely.

All of the nitpicky parts of the flag etiquette code were clearly written for another time period when flag images were not popping up everywhere.

I think it either needs to be revised to a sensible level and concentrate on the actual flag itself or just ban any unauthorized flag images altogether using copyright laws or something.

The current state of things is horrendously inconsistently applied to say the least.

Linda_Owl's avatar

Considering some of the dishonorable things our government has done (all the while insisting on people being Patriotic & flying the stars & stripes), I have long since ceased flying the flag of the United States – starting during the Vietnam War when draftees who were too young to vote were being sent off to die in the jungles of Vietnam. I do not attempt to tell people that they should not fly the flag & I certainly would not deliberately try to destroy any flag, but until it stands once again for honor (not for allowing torture), I will not fly a flag in my yard.

Jaxk's avatar


Government is a separate issue even though not entirely divorced. When Hitler killed himself and the Nazi Regime fell, Germany was still Germany and Germans were still Germans, even though the government changed. When the Soviet Union took over East Germany, the Germans were still Germans and when given the chance, they reunited. Governments change but the culture and identity remain. Egypt threw out Mubarak but Egypt is still Egypt. They’ve yet to stabilize the government but Egyptians are still Egyptians. You want to protest your government by denigrating your country and it’s people. They’re not the same thing and you should know that.

Jaxk's avatar


Denigrating the Flag has been ruled ‘Free Speech. You can’t outlaw it. Free Speech is part of what the flag represents. You can be as derisive towards it as you like because of what it represents.

Cruiser's avatar

@tom_g Of course you are free to object to anything about this country and the people who direct the current policies…my comments were specifically directed to our country’s flag. It is a very small request to any and all to respect a symbol of this freedom you do possess to bitch and moan about anything you please. Again…people gave their lives and limbs to defend your freedom to do so while this flag flew to give notice to this defense of your freedoms. It’s really not a lot to ask of anyone and if it is for you….I know a lot of people besides me who would be glad to buy you a one way ticket out of here.

tom_g's avatar

@Cruiser: “I know a lot of people besides me who would be glad to buy you a one way ticket out of here.”

This really saddens me. I’ll try to respond to you via PM soon. I am really busy right now and about to leave for a short vacation.

augustlan's avatar

I have to admit that I really don’t understand how it’s disrespectful to display the flag as art or on clothing (or paper plates and bumper stickers, as @Buttonstc pointed out.) Certainly, most of the people who do this are doing it out of a sense of patriotism… not anti-Americanism. It’s pretty absurd, when you think about it.

Desecrating/burning the flag is in a whole different realm. Here, the intent is disrespect. But in the end a flag is only a symbol, not a person or a place. I’d never want it to be illegal, or for folks who do it to be kicked out of the country. I’m much more concerned that people show respect to other people, wherever they may be from.

Buttonstc's avatar

I agree.

And I’m wondering about who (or what committee) created that whole code of ethics and all it’s vagaries ? I’m thinking they’re painting with too broad a brush in terms of what is disrespectful and what isn’t.

And when my flag bumpersticker gets too worn out looking, I’m going to get it off any way I can without worrying about “proper disposal”.

To me that’s not a flag in the same way that one which flies on a staff is. Its merely a small representation of one

If I had a regulaton type flag, I would take much more care to treat it right.

But the bumper sticker is basically just that and no more.

zenvelo's avatar

@augustlan @Buttonstc The thinking by the American Legion on respect for the flag applies to things like paper plates and napkins, because they are designed to be soiled and then thrown in the trash. And when a flag bumper sticker gets worn after a few storms and trips through the car wash, it too looks a bit disrespectful.

It’s not too far from napkins and paper towels to toilet paper “just right for your holiday parties!”

Buttonstc's avatar

But you missed my main point which was that I think there is am essential difference between an actual flag and a much smaller image of a flag.

It’s kind of like the difference between an image of a dollar bill which is significantly larger or smaller than the actual bill size. And, for obvious reasons it is tightly regulated how much the image must differ from the actual bill size. Even if there is absolutely no intent to use it as a counterfeit, the size cannot be that close to it’s actual size.

I certainly think it’s logical that an actual flag should not be used as curtains or cut apart to make shorts or a shirt or something. That’s clear disrespect.

But for something that’s just a much smaller flag image used for decoration, it’s just not the same.

And if it’s so horrible to do that, then don’t allow it’s manufacture in the same way that certain size images of currency are not permitted. Neither has anything to do with freedom of speech but of commerce and profit.

And for that matter, how different from an actual flag does something need to be in order not to be considered disrespectful ?

I’ve seen plenty of T shirts with an artist’s rendering of the stars and stripes which could never be mistaken for an actual flag if someone tried to hang it up. But it is still clearly the US flag which is being depicted? Why is that apparently OK?

And there is plenty of half circle decorative bunting red and white striped along with fields of blue and white stars which are a version of the flag. That doesn’t receive any of the special treatment reserved for an actual flag. It’s routinely used and discarded by presidential (and other election) campaigns all the time even tho it’s clearly a representation of the flag.

There needs to be some consistency. To me, a much smaller depiction of the flag on metal, plastic, or paper is no more a flag than the bunting is and shouldn’t be treated with the same reverence as an actual flag which can be flown.

Even those small handheld paper or plastic flags which are handed out at rallies or political conventions are not accorded the same respect as the actual flags on staffs displayed on the podium.

And these are representatives of our own government who should know right from wrong in this regard.

Why dont those who are most concerned with respect for the flag start there ?

As I said before, the entire code needs to have priorities rethought, clarified, and the most important parts enforced; beginning from top government officials on down.

If you don’t want Americans using little paper flags, or little flag bumper stickets, then stop handing them out at your political rallies and leaving them to be tossed carelessly aside when finished.

Consistency. Consistency. Consistency.

augustlan's avatar

@Buttonstc Part of my confusion is that I don’t understand why, even using an actual flag, hanging it over your window as a curtain is disrespectful. I’m nearly certain that people who do it are actually quite patriotic and mean no disrespect for it.

Buttonstc's avatar

When I wrote what I did, I guess I didn’t make it clear that I meant an actual. Set of curtains (for which it was obviously not designed) although ive never seen or heard of it being done.

I think just hanging in the window for patriotic display isn’t really using it as you would a set of curtains. There are times when that is done instead of attaching it to a staff as is usually done.

augustlan's avatar

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. An actual US flag, hung as a curtain.

Buttonstc's avatar

Yeah that one is on the borderline of tacky for me personally. But that’s just my opinion.

Altho to be fair, I don’t see a great deal of difference between that pic and the stars and stripes bunting with rosettes sort of thing.(And the main reason for that observation is that I doubt that was an actual flag converted into a curtain. The material looks more sheer, gauzy or semi-transparent rather than totally opaque the way regular flags are, don’t you think ?)

But i do totally agree with you that this whole subject is needlessly confusing with too many gray areas.

I’m curious what others would have to say about that pic, particularly military veterans.

Anyone else following this thread care to chime in about this particular pic ?

augustlan's avatar

That pic was just the one I found quickest. I’ve seen a ton where it’s definitely a real flag. What say you, vets?

mattbrowne's avatar

Lots of Greek protesters burned German flags recently. It irritated people, but that was about it. No one made too big a deal out of it.

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