Living in the State of Oregon there is a significant mix of thought patterns on what is or is not patriotic. Much of the state is made up of small, rural agricultural towns, with a few cities laying along the Interstate Five corridor and a couple in the Eastern part of the state, near large tourism areas.
Growing up, I was raised in a small, sheltered, sleepy town, nestled up against the South Umpqua River. Ranching, farming, logging, and rodeo made up the heart of this town. On any given day you could visit the local grocery store and speak with the owner, working a shift next to the rest of their employees, then see them working an accident along one of the main rural roadways, because they served on the volunteer fire department in town.
A place where the town Chief of Police was regularly seen at the park, interacting with the youth and their parents. A town, where during hunting season, high schoolers brought their rifles to school with them, leaving them in their trucks, and being dismissed to go hunting after lunch. A place where Friday night lights glowed, weekend work usually took place in a field and many households camped, fished, prayed, attended church, and stood for the flag, taking off their hats, placing their hands over their hearts, and getting misty eyed over what the flag meant to them and their family.
This was the era of World War II participants being grandparents, and Vietnam veterans being parents. This town had a significant amount of respect for the flag and held it in high esteem. I was born post-Vietnam, so I did not witness burning of the flag in protest, I do not remember growing up seeing the American Flag being flown from individual’s private cars, the only exception was for parades or the presidential motorcade on television.
The last four years have brought about a divide in this state. An air of “us versus them”, and all the negativity, anger, resentment, and closemindedness that comes with a mindset like that.
I think back on the protests in Portland, Salem, and Eugene, some of the treatment of the American flag during those times. I also remember the outcry from the opposing side, the talk they had of how sad it was to see the disrespect being shown to the flag. The posts on social media tearing into the offenders, the name calling and the declarations of, “never would we do this.”.
During this time there was an uptake in American flags being flown from the back of personal pick-ups, plastered in the windows of SUV’s and cars, all in the name of patriotism. We display the flag loud and proud, mindset. We see your burning and destroying of the flag and raise you a flying freely in the wind for all to see counterattack.
It is this back and forth regarding patriotism that has brought a question forward in my mind. Are any of the folks, in either set, mentioned above truly patriotic or are they all disrespectful?
My opinion says, disrespectful.
Please do not get me wrong, I am behind freedom of speech, I am behind patriotism. I served 23 years and retired from the military. I feel an overwhelming burning anger and disgust when I see people burn and destroy the flag. I also get those same feelings when I see a tattered, torn, filthy flag flying from the back of a truck. When I see a flag flying at night and there is no light on it; when I see a cloth flag flying in inclement weather, attached to the back of these trucks, all in the name of patriotism.
My opinion should not be taken at face value though.
The United States has a flag code. The code can be pulled up online doing a basic search, or, for those who still like the quiet of the library, at your local branch.
United States Code, Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 6a
It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open.
However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed twenty-four hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.
United States Code, Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 6c
The flag should not be displayed on days when the weather is inclement, except when an all-weather flag is displayed.
United States Code, Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 8e
The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way.
United States Code, Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 8k
The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.
With the above guidance in mind, I am of a firm conclusion, the individuals displaying the flag this way, are being disrespectful, despite their claim of being patriotic. Their hearts may mean well, but the presentation needs to be better thought out.