CRAWFORD COMMENTARY | On respecting the American Flag - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD COMMENTARY | On respecting the American Flag

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — If you’re looking for someone to blame for this column, blame principal Rudolph Collins, or whoever it was back at East Middle School in Shelby County who decided I would be a good choice to take care of handling the American Flag.

Oh, and blame The Courier-Journal, and their stack of newspapers featuring a four-page “Flag wrap” today in the display at the grocery. More on that in a bit.

Back in my junior high years, my friend Todd Puckett and I were, somehow, pulled out of homeroom one day and told the job of handling the school’s flag was ours. We’d raise the flag every day, then lower it at the end of the day.

We were taught the proper way to fold the flag. We watched the windows between periods to know when to run to get the flag out of the rain.

We were taught to treat the flag with respect. It was probably around that time that I read the U.S. Flag Code for the first time.

The Code isn’t law. You can’t go to jail for violating any of its guidelines. The First Amendment to the Constitution supersedes any flag concerns.

But since that time, I have been particularly attuned to the way the flag is handled. When Newsweek photographers used the flag as a prop in a Sarah Palin picture in 2009, I wrote about it.

From the Flag Code: “The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white, and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker’s desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in general.”

I’ve always had a bit of a problem with the flag on athletic uniforms, since the Flag Code expressly forbids it. But it has become such common usage that there’s no point fighting that battle.

Four years ago, President Obama’s campaign caught some heat for a print it made available in its online store. The print, titled, “Our Stripes: Flag Print” featured what resembles an American Flag with Obama’s campaign logo in the upper left corner, where the stars normally would be. As you might expect, folks on the right were aghast. Obama’s people answered that the print was a piece of art, not a rendering of the American Flag. I’m fine with that.

But I wasn’t fine with what I saw in the grocery this morning. The local newspaper had reproduced the flag, taking up its entire front page, with the newspaper’s nameplate at the top. (It should be noted, this particular flag is printed, as it should be, with the blue field of stars in proper position to hang vertically.) The back page of the “wrap” was a civics lesson, and goodness knows, we need more of those.

But it turns out that The Courier-Journal might need its own civics lesson.

The Flag Code is clear on this: “The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard.”

Anything like, say for example, newsprint. Oh, and did I mention that the entire back of The C-J’s “flag wrap” contained a double-truck advertisement for a gun dealer? Guns and ammo galore.

It’s a rare nod to the Second Amendment from the local paper, and one that many will, no doubt appreciate. It's funny how the editorial departments of many news organizations lobby regularly against various aspects of gun sales, but the advertising, sales and accounting departments don't seem to share that sentiment.

My point is that while it’s not against the law, it’s also not as patriotic as it is meant to seem. There are ways to honor America without a throw-away flag display. It’s not illegal, but it’s also not a respectful treatment of the flag.

Nor is it the end of the world or the end of the union. The newspaper found an inexpensive way to sell a double-truck gun ad while having to report no news — just print the flag and a bunch of civics facts that every junior high student used to know back when they taught such things.

It’s just that, whenever the middle-school kid in me sees something like that, he can’t keep from raising his hand.

Or, apparently, from keeping his mouth shut.

ON A SEPARATE PROGRAMMING NOTE: WDRB’s Lindsay Allen and videographer Beth Peak went with a group of World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans on an Honor Flight not too long ago. Their outstanding story ran on WDRB News, but it ran the week of Muhammad Ali’s death, and probably got far less attention than it should have. The good news is that Beth and Lindsay have worked to put together a 30-minute program on that Honor Flight trip. If you’re looking for a reason to feel proud and grateful on Independence Day, turn on WDRB at 11:30 a.m. Monday, or set your DVR. The veterans who speak are very much worth listening to.

Copyright 2016 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.

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