The United States Flag Code gives an explanation of reasons to fly the American flag upside-down, and none of the reasons include protest. Recently, I have witnessed many stories where people are flying the American flag upside-down as a form of protest against any number of things: the war, the President, the Supreme Court, school, etc.
Here is the most recent.
Turning expectations upside down – The Boston Globe
Uhlendorf is not refusing to pay his taxes to protest a war. He hasn’t penned essays on issues of civil disobedience. But like Thoreau, who was frustrated with the Mexican-American War, Uhlendorf wanted some way to vent his opposition to the current Iraq situation. So, two years ago, when the Iraq War was at a low point, he began flying his American flag outside his home on Pepperell’s Brookline Street upside down, a maritime signal used on the high seas to show a vessel is in distress.
The move, which did not stir public outcry for the last two years, has touched a nerve in town of late.
He goes on to say in a later phone interview …
During a phone interview, Uhlendorf bristled slightly at any suggestion by others that what he was doing was unpatriotic or disrespectful to the symbolism of the flag.
“I’m a very patriotic person,” he said. “If there were more patriotic people who made a stand, then maybe this war would be over quicker.”
I must disagree with Mr Uhlendorf. I would never question his patriotism, but if he thinks he is not being disrespectful to the flag, he is dead wrong. By violating the very document that teaches us how to respect the U.S. flag, he shows his disdain for United States law.
Respect for flag
Respect for flag is the title given to Section 8 of the U.S. Flag Code, and it addresses this very issue. In fact, this issue is so important that it is the first article written in the Respect for Flag section. Here is the introduction and article (a) in Section 8 of the U.S. Flag Code.
No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America; the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing. Regimental colors, State flags, and organization or institutional flags are to be dipped as a mark of honor.
(a) The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.
After reading the referenced story several times, I don’t see that Peter Uhlendorf is in extreme danger to either his life or his property. Maybe if he believes so strongly in protesting the war, he should stop paying his taxes, then he might have a reason to fly the flag in this manner.
The same section of the U.S. code containing the Tax Code also holds the Flag Code. There is one big difference though: there are no punitive repercussions for violating the Flag Code, whereas the Tax Code has the IRS to bring about “extreme danger to life and property.” Maybe he isn’t against the war as much as he wants us to believe. It’s easy pick on the American flag—and “protest” by flying it upside-down—but let’s see him pick on something with substance … the IRS, which funds the war he is against.
Protest? In this country we have the freedom to protest, and that’s good. We can disagree in many ways, but that doesn’t mean we should show disrespect for our flag. Write letters, send emails, attend meetings, stage marches with banners and hand-made signs. That’s what real protesters do.
Of course, the Supreme Court has ruled a protester can burn the American flag, but they haven’t ruled it’s OK to fly it as a sign of distress in protest.
Mr. Uhlendorf, you are showing contempt for a symbol I hold very dear, and that is disrespectful. Fly your American flag with respect, according to the U.S. Flag Code, and protest in ways protected by the U.S. Constitution. Then I will respect you.