Recently a network news anchor disclosed being made uncomfortable by the millions of Americans who chose to wear flag lapel pins after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Because the anchor’s statement is beyond comprehension and beneath contempt, I’ll save my comments for another day. But it does serve as a jumping off point for a discussion about wearing the flag.
Wearing the flag as a lapel pin is in fact, one of the few ways to “wear the flag” that is permitted by the U.S. Flag Code. Many people want to wear the flag in some form, as an unmistakable sign of their love and affection for their country and the flag. However, the flag code is quite specific regarding the display of the flag, and especially the wearing of the flag.
The flag transcends clothing
The flag of the United States of America transcends mere clothing. Not only should the flag itself never be used as an article of clothing, but the image of the flag should never be reproduced on clothing. It should never be printed on anything ephemeral.
Our nation’s greatest sorrow is to lay the flag across the coffins of our veterans and others who have given their lives for our safety. It is also the greatest honor we bestow upon them. What does this honor mean if we dishonor the flag by printing it on paper napkins, t-shirts, or wearing the flag as a cape?
So who gets to wear the flag?
Section 8(j) of the flag code says: “No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.”
To summarize, the flag, in the form of a patch, may be worn by those in uniform, and members of patriotic organizations. Here is my simple rule for “wearing the flag.”
If, when you die, someone from city, state, federal government, or patriotic organization gives your family a flag to lay over your coffin, then you get to wear a flag patch while you are alive.
For the rest of us, we can wear it as a pin, over the heart.
All of the photographs shown below are violations of the U.S. Flag Code.