Meet the Flag Code

The BBC has a useful backgrounder on the subject of US “flag etiquette” which we’ve been puzzling over lately. It’s good to get it from the Beeb, as a neutral party.

The Flag Code covers all aspects of etiquette in relation to the Stars and Stripes, including how to behave when the anthem is played. The code is never enforced, however, and there is no punishment for breaching it.

The link is to a government site. What the government is doing issuing etiquette codes that aren’t enforced, I don’t really understand.

What to do if someone picks the Flag Song on the jukebox?

The code states that persons present are expected to stand and face the flag, if there is one. Civilians should stand to attention with right hand over heart, while military personnel in uniform and veterans should salute throughout. A recent amendment to the code said that military personnel out of uniform could also salute.

So it’s actually codified somewhere that we are supposed to put our hands on our chests when we hear that tune. I did not know that. I say it’s none of their business.

How long has the Flag Code been around?

Experts say that US flag etiquette is important because [it] was created out of respect for the country’s historical heritage.

But the code was first drawn up only in 1923 under the auspices of the American Legion, and only became law when the US was at war, in 1942.

The American Legion isn’t the boss of us.

Now the law, in 1942…I sort of get that, up to a point. In 1942 they didn’t know that Hitler would fail. They thought it was a lot more likely than it was before Germany invaded Russia and before Pearl Harbor, but they didn’t know. That was scary. I sort of get the urge to do everything they could think of to make sure Hitler failed, including motivational inspirational patriotic flapdoodle. But the fact remains that it’s none of their business. And it’s not 1942 now.

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