“Let’s run it up the flagpole . . . “

“Free speech, exercised both individually and through a free press, is a necessity in any country where people are themselves free.”  Theodore Roosevelt, 1918

A friend related the story of someone who graduated from our high school a year ahead of us telling him he has no interest in reading my recent book — The Bridge Between: Race, Rage & Reconciliation in 1960s Iowa (TBB). The reason is because he resents the upside-down American flag on my Facebook site.

US Flag Distress Signal

My friend told me, “I understand where you are coming from, the vast gulf between the ideal of USA and the reality of USA.” A perceptive perception.

He added, “It’s your call, but it seems likely the image restricts your audience.” The Lord and my accountant know The Bridge Between wasn’t written for monetary gain. I’m OK with anyone choosing not to buy or read it which others have done. I wouldn’t remove the distress flag to be marketable.

I’ve lost long-time friends because of the upside down flag. Been castigated. Vilified. Threatened. Been unfriended on Facebook by friends and relatives. I won’t remove the flag because of these situations.

I have no problem with anyone’s reaction. I do have an issue with their lack of understanding of my right to protest.

An upside down flag is globally a signal “of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.” (American flag protocols: Section §8 of Chapter 1 of Title 4 – Flag and Seal, Seat of Government, And the States — of the U.S. Code was enacted by act July 30, 1947.(https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2011-title4/pdf/USCODE-2011-title4-chap1.pdf.) It’s interesting that’s paragraph (a) in Section §8. An upside-down flag is also a sign of protest or revolution in many countries.

I use the upside-down flag on Facebook, because it’s a major social medium in which the chasm between the Trump supporters and the non-supporters is demonstrated by the minute. And because I believe the life, liberty and property of us Americans are in dire danger and distress under this president and his administration. And so are the American character that historically have made America great, our sense of self, our unity, our culture of inclusiveness, our sense of responsibility to the world “lifting (our) lamp beside the golden door.” That we are seeing the fulfillment of Lincoln’s prophesy of our demise as a country coming from within. That’s why I display the upside-down flag.

To protest, some people take a knee. Raise a clenched fist. March. Sit in and sit down. Strike, even teachers. Burn the flag. Beat minority citizens senseless. Burn cities. I display the distress signal on my Facebook page.

As an 11-year military veteran of both the AF and the Army, including a year in Nam, I’ve stated before that my service meant I was and am prepared to defend to the death the First Amendment right of any citizen or non-citizen to lawfully protest.  Any veteran who doesn’t understand that responsibility or right didn’t really understand the oath s/he made, in my opinion. And any citizen who supports the troops, but objects to an upside-down flag as a symbol of protest in a time of  “dire distress in instances of extreme danger,” doesn’t understand what it means to be a citizen, in my opinion.

Beyond not acknowledging my right to protest, the furor over my Facebook flag is hypocrisy I suspect by a number of those who object.

The same code that indicates the meaning of the American flag with the union down also says the flag “should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery.” How many of us have violated that rule? How many apparel companies and designers would be out of work if people were as offended by that use of the flag as they are by my display?

The code also says it “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. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.”

There go the Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Veterans Day decorations, the industries and employees that produce them, and the McDonald’s flag flying under Old Glory as well.

And no “part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform.” Athletic apparel companies and their workers have just fallen in the face of protestors citing Section §8.

“However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations.”

I shouldn’t have an American flag patch on my Vietnam Veteran’s hat or my favorite patch denim jacket since I’m not formally a member of any of those groups. How many wear the flag on a sleeve with the union (the blue field with the white stars) facing the back rather than forward? Or wear an American flag pin on the right lapel rather than the left, near the heart?

Some who protest my protest symbol don’t properly display the flag at their homes with proper lighting and don’t properly dispose of them when they become unserviceable.

The one outside our house is. And donated to the Boy Scouts for a proper flag-burning ceremony.

Flag 309 Palm Street

Many who object to my Facebook flag have never stopped driving, gotten out of the car and stood with hand over heart when kids were raising or lowering the flag in front of the school. I have.

My use of an upside-down American flag is a symbol of protest. It’s not un-American or anti-American or unpatriotic.

For me, there’s an interesting sentence buried in Section §8, paragraph J: “The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing.” Our First Amendment allows this “living thing” to be burned in protest. That Constitutionally guaranteed right and others are “all or nothing rights,” not ones that are “pick and choose.”

If they’re not, it begs the question whether the United States is today “a living country” or a dying social experiment.

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