Sunday, September 7, 2014

Is "Old Glory" an Old Tradition?

This weekend, as my family and I were walking to the Northwestern football stadium, we passed a house and my dad suddenly stopped and just stared.  Initially, I didn't notice what he was staring at, nor did my sisters.  It was just an ordinary, white brick house with a flag hanging from the side. Finally, he said, "Those people hung their flag up backwards.  It really bothers me when people do that."

"Old Glory" hanging backwards on a house, just like the one I saw.

I am embarrassed to say it, but if my dad had not pointed it out, I do not think I would have noticed it was hung incorrectly.  When I see a flag, the first thing that comes to mind is not the way it is oriented; however, to my dad, he noticed it instantly.  I just walked by the flag and thought nothing of it.

"The Soiling of Old Glory" by Louis Masur thoroughly discusses what is seen as disrespectful to the American Flag, as well as what is acceptable.  More often than not, the area between what is and is not acceptable is grey and extremely controversial.  Obviously, the photo, "The Soiling of Old Glory", illustrates the flag being used in a disrespectful manner, for it depicts a man (Joseph Rakes) aiming the flag at an African American (Ted Landsmark); however, the book also brings up many other possibly disrespectful scenarios, such as wearing clothes with the American Flag on them.  Most people from our generation would say the fashion trend of "Americana" is reasonable, while people from past generations would frown upon it and see teenagers that are wearing bikinis with Old Glory printed on them as disrespectful.  The new generations are certainly overpowering the old though, for if one were to walk into any teenage clothing store they would see an abundance of clothing with stars and stripes.

The incorrectly hung flag made me think, "Who would see this as disrespectful, and who would not?"  My dad, a member of an older generation and a veteran, saw it as extremely disrespectful; however, to my younger sister, she could not care less and probably was not even listening to my dad when he discussed the orientation of the flag.  Is it similar to the idea of wearing the flag where some people would say it is disrespectful, and some would not care?  Does it really all come down to the generation gap?

William Maxwell, a frustrated American, wrote a letter to the editor of Billings Gazette expressing his frustration about how Americans do not know how to put up and take down the flag after he witnessed a flag being taken down at a school without a proper ceremony or even folding it correctly. He suggested that students lack knowledge about Old Glory and need to learn how to care for the flag properly in order to keep the tradition of respecting the flag alive.

In my opinion, the flag should always be displayed properly; however, a lot of people from my generation and younger generations fail to know how to "care for the flag", as William Maxwell suggests.  If we do not learn, who will continue to pass down "flag knowledge" to future generations? I wonder if what is currently seen as disrespectful regarding the flag be acceptable someday...


  1. I really like this post because I definitely agree that the American flag should be treated with respect and not just used for entertainment value on clothing or TV. I didn't know how to fold a flag until my dad showed me and I too think it's a result of the generation gap that the younger generation doesn't really care all that much anymore. I believe it's very important to treat the flag with respect. Thanks for posting.

  2. Hi Claire! I really liked the reference and connection to "The Soiling of Old Glory," but it also made me think of a point that was raised in the book, if people were to enforce "proper care" for our flag, then would that be an infringement on our freedom of speech? Where do we draw the line to what is proper flag care and what is not proper flag care? Who has the say? (Although I do agree that the flag should be treated with respect, that part of the book and this post really made me wonder where the line is drawn.)