Sunday, September 23, 2012

Is Obama's Flag Breaking Federal Law?

My Two Cents
A proud patriot marched into my office incensed over a flag image he had seen on the World Net Daily website.  Created by Ross Brugnick and Dan Olson, the designers created an abstract flag image featuring the Obama campaign logo. My angry visitor unfurled a copy of the offending image.  "That usurper Barack HUSSEIN Obama is clearly desecrating our flag!" he groused.  The gentleman's question was simple.  "Isn't there law that tells you what you can't do to Old Glory?"

Peering over my Ben Franklin founding father bifocals I answered. "Absolutely, There is indeed a federal law entitled the United States Flag Code. You can find it in Title Four of the Federal Code.  Chapter one to be precise."  I raised one eyebrow authoritatively to add emphasis.  This brought a smile to the man's face. The pugnacious patriot continued with his rant. "Now, we are getting somewhere. The United States Flag Code specifically states that our flag should never be marked with insignia, letter, word, picture or drawing. This campaign logo is obviously an insignia.  We must contact the attorney general's office!"  

This particular rabble rouser had been in my office before. He had once wanted to sue President Obama over his birth certificate. After telling him that Hawaii was a state and the president was indeed a citizen, I really hated to give him more bad news. In my opinion, while the image may have invoked the Stars & Stripes, it was clearly not the flag of the United States. To begin with it has less stripes and no stars.  If you think that's close enough, you might as well go after the flags of Texas, Puerto Rico, Liberia, and Malaysia. The smile turned to a frown."Come on!" he bellowed.  "It is clearly the American flag"  After he got down from my desk, I had more bad news. "Even if it was the flag, there is no penalty for failing to comply with the law.  Doing so would impede your freedom of speech." 

The man was livid. "Screw the freedom of speech.  What about our rights? You would never find a great American like Mitt Romney acting this way."  I looked away from the gentleman.  "What is it now?"  I looked at my shoes. "Spit it out!" I hated to tell him that Romney had actually signed American flags with a sharpie marker at some campaign events. I explained that if he was truly concerned about flag desecration, writing on a flag with a marker was a pretty cut and dry violation of the flag code. (You can probably still find a few Romney autographed flags on Ebay).  I feared the gentleman's head would explode.   He began turning red and stopped breathing.  He turned pale white and eventually blue.  I restrained myself from telling him that he might be violating the Flag Code.  

The flag should never be used in advertising
With some exceptions, the flag code is basically a guide intended to be followed for etiquette and respect. For example, the flag should never be displayed upside down except as a sign of distress. It should never touch anything beneath it, be worn or used as bedding or drapery, or be used for advertising purposes. The flag must always be allowed to fall free and never displayed furled. In addition to the aforementioned ban on insignia,  the flag may not be used for any advertising purposes.  There should be no advertising attached to a pole flying a flag.  ( A flag pole, not a Polish person.)

In addition, the image of our flag may not be printed, embroidered or otherwise impressed on anything designed for temporary use and discard. This includes napkins, table clothes paper plates and cups. So much for that July 4th party and those little flags they hand out at parades. No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform except flag patches are allowed as part of the uniform of a federal, state, civic or patriotic organizations.  So sorry Captain America, Apollo Creed and Jessica Simpson flag bikini.  (Especially sorry Jessica Simpson flag bikini).
Sure, I'll sign your flag.

The flag must not be marked with any insignia, letter, word, signature, picture or drawing. Technically, this gets many political campaigns in trouble. At least the Obama campaign created an abstract flag.  Most campaigns don't bother.  They'll print their names on actual US Flags. Even honest Abe was guilty of it.  Truth be told, the controversy is foolish and mostly feigned outrage.  Frankly, if you really feel outraged, you're gonna be pretty busy. 

Political campaigns can be odd things.  Decorated veterans McCain and Kerry were accused of being cowards by opponents who didn't serve in Vietnam.  Here in Connecticut, Congressman Christopher Murphy was attacked by his opponent Linda McMahon because he had undergone a foreclosure. Ironically, while Murphy was able to save his house from foreclosure, McMahon went bankrupt and never paid her own creditors  It's bizarre.

My advice is simple. Instead of focusing on trivial matters like who forgot to wear their flag pin or who sings the national anthem the loudest, maybe focus on things that matter. For example, is it more important that someone wore a flag pin or that someone passed legislation granting benefits for veterans.  Don't let sound bites and trivialities cloud your judgment. Vote with your head. I think that's about two cents worth. 


Anonymous said...

This is a very nice article. I enjoyed it very much. It is both amusing and informative. One question: is the client described in the article real or a literary device? I’m just curious.

Adrian M. Baron said...

Thank you for the kind comments. It is actually based on a real person who gave me permission to mention it. A little poetic license. He didn't actually stand on my desk, but he does usually bring laminated pages of conspiracy theories

Anonymous said...

So he's real and you've added a few embellishments to make the story more interesting. He sounds like quite a character. Good job. Thanks, I enjoyed it.

Adrian M. Baron said...

Not too many embellishments lol

Anonymous said...

When asked why I failed to wear a flag pin on my lapel, I responded I wear it on my heart, where it belongs.

ChrystinP said...

Great read--thank you very much. It's always novel to read something intelligently writren, and with correct spelling, grammar and punctuation, too!

Ashley Casas said...

I had to contain to contain my laughter because I was in the office when I first read this. But it was so funny, I just had to share it with my friend at home. Great job on this one!

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