A confession — I have burned an American flag. In fact, I have burned a few. On one occasion I even involved my young children in the process. We removed the worn, faded flag that had stood outside our house since September 11, 2001, folded it neatly into a triangle and placed it on the flames within our fireplace. In doing so, I showed them how to fulfill our patriotic obligations under section §176 of the U.S. Code. This section states that “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.”
Perhaps this is nothing more than an example of why it is a bad idea to formulate presidential policy in 140 characters or less. However, it is more likely that Trump is unfamiliar with how the law suggests how “respect for flag” should be shown. Otherwise, he would not have announced his candidacy in front of a wall of American flags. The code is very clear that the flag is not to be used as decoration and that instead “bunting of blue, white, and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below should be used”. Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. and the Republican National Committee would also not be selling shirts emblazoned with the flag in violation of prohibitions on using it as “wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery”, “for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever” and as “a costume or athletic uniform”.
Trump is not the first person to wrap himself up in patriotism and fall flat on his face. Blue lives matter hides behind a logo that paints a blue line across an American flag despite wording in the code that states a “flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.” The code also states that “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,” but this did not stop a pickup truck driver to declare his patriotism by attaching a flag to the rear of his vehicle. Not surprisingly, it was clear that this flag had passed the point where it needed to be surrendered to the flames of a fire.
Of course, all of this ignores the fact that any flag is nothing more than a piece of cloth. Despite the claim of a group of legislators, it is not “a living thing”, but a symbol of our nation’s ideals. When politicians like Trump sacrifice these ideals by using their offices to threaten those exercising their First Amendment rights, they do much more damage than an ill-advised protester with a lighter and a flag. This endangers the foundation our country was built on and all patriots should stand against this, or at least take a knee.
Carl Petersen is a parent and special education advocate, elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race. He was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a “strong supporter of public schools.” His past blogs can be found at www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com.