July 2012 home page

Flag Felicity
Nancy Fisher | 24th Street


Flags unfurled. Photo Mike Salt

From Memorial Day on, one of the pleasures of summer is seeing all of the American flags, pennants, and wind socks festooning beach front homes and the rest of the city - but what were those pesky rules again? At the request of some beach colony residents, we checked into the U.S. Flag Code and offer these answers to the flag etiquette questions that have been keeping you awake at night.

Some residents leave their American flags up 24 hours a day. Aren’t we supposed to lower them at sunset?
According to the code, it is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.

I always thought we should rush out and take the flag down if it started to rain. True?
Turns out there is a little leeway here. The code reads that the flag should not be displayed on days when the weather is inclement, except when the flag is made of all-weather material.

What if I’m displaying more than one flag on the same halyard or on separate staffs? What’s the proper order for displaying, raising and lowering?
When flags of states, cities, or localities, or pennants of societies are flown on the same halyard with the flag of the United States, the latter should always be at the peak. When the flags are flown from adjacent staffs, the flag of the United States should be hoisted first and lowered last. No such flag or pennant may be placed above the flag of the United States or to the United States flag’s right (the flag’s own right).

We all know that the flag should never touch the ground, but burning it if it does touch the ground seems like overkill. Really?
It’s true that the American flag should never touch anything beneath it, although contrary to urban legend, the flag code does not state that a flag that touches the ground should be burned. Instead it is considered disrespectful to the flag and the flag in question should be moved in such a manner that it is not touching the ground.

When and how should I dispose of my American flag?
The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning. Del Mar residents can take their old flags to the Encinitas American Legion at 210 W. F St. for disposal. Please check their hours at 760-753-5674.


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