The Proper Standard: Approaching the Noncompliant

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The Proper Standard authors Hunter and Ross Simmons

While there is no greater symbol of freedom world-wide than “Old Glory,” the authors believe that its patriotic display is only mildly more inconvenient, but far more reverent and appropriate, if done compliant with federal law and consistent with the Rules of Flag Etiquette.

Approaching the Noncompliant

Far and away the single-most asked question we receive is not one about flag etiquette, per se, and this comes as no surprise to us. We are of record that “placed in perspective, much of ‘flag etiquette’ is intuitive. The flag is a symbol not only of our country, but also a tribute to all of those who gave their lives to secure it.” Whether by anecdote, research, or just “trusting our gut,” most of us know what to do, and simply do it.

No, the question we receive most is this: “how do I correct someone who’s doing it wrong?” That, of course, is not an easy answer, since the reasons we struggle correcting others are mostly personal. Perhaps we don’t want to hurt another’s feelings, perhaps we don’t want to risk being embarrassed in some way, or perhaps resistance comes from the ordinary sort of rationalizing we all engage in, and for that we have no omnibus solutions.

We can only offer our approach, and that is to raise the issue politely, and respectfully, and invite correction. Certainly it does not work categorically, but once one accepts that most of us want to do the right thing, the result is that most of us will be grateful for those assisting us in doing it.

So by way of example, let us share one of our recent experiences, for your consideration:

A Case Study: The Sports Arena

On February 13, we sent the following email to the Valley View Casino Center (“VVCC”) public relations department:

“Could you just diplomatically pass this issue along to the arena crew to address in due course, if they are willing? I appreciate that their plate is full, but I also admire their character and attention to detail, and send this in that spirit.

“Real obscure issue, but the flag at the top of the VVCC is backward. When the US Flag is hanging, the union (star field) should be facing either north or east, depending on the direction of suspension. This is to say that we ought to reverse the VVCC flag. If you look at the photo below, you can see the flag, and then to the left, the “EAST” label on the wall—that’s the issue. The blue/star field should be positioned on the other side of the flag, to the East.

“Flag Code section 7(j) – ‘When the flag is displayed over the middle of the street, it should be suspended vertically with the union to the north in an east and west street or to the east in a north and south street.’

“Flag Code section 7(o) – ‘When the flag is suspended across a corridor or lobby in a building with only one main entrance, it should be suspended vertically with the union of the flag to the observer’s left upon entering. If the building has more than one main entrance, the flag should be suspended vertically near the center of the corridor or lobby with the union to the north, when entrances are to the east and west or to the east when entrances are to the north and south. If there are entrances in more than two directions, the union should be to the east.’

“The Canadian flag will need to be reversed, also, so its direction (the maple leaf) is aligned with that of the corrected US Flag. This will also remedy another positioning issue—the US Flag should be on the right, viewed from “the flag’s own right.” The flag’s own right is where the blue/star field is, and should be to the East, which means the US Flag should be furthest East. Otherwise, their positioning side-by-side and equally high is PERFECT!

“Flag Code section 7(d) – ‘The flag of the United States of America, when it is displayed with another flag against a wall from crossed staffs, should be on the right, the flag’s own right, and its staff should be in front of the staff of the other flag.’

“Flag Code section 7(g) – ‘When flags of two or more nations are displayed, they are to be flown from separate staffs of the same height. The flags should be of approximately equal size. International usage forbids the display of the flag of one nation above that of another nation in time of peace.’

“VVCC staff should be conveyed our thanks—they can call with questions. Thanks also for all you do!!”

The Outcome

With kudos to VVCC, this outcome was great, and “before” and “after” photos accompany this post. What it shows is that (i) not everyone is versed on the issues at hand, and yet (ii) most would happily do the right thing were they aware of what to do. “How do I correct someone who’s doing it wrong?” Just respectfully explain the issue, and ask that they fix it. Too, never hesitate to reach out to the authors if we can provide guidance on these issues as they are applied, so that your work can be empowered by the gentle touch of authority.

Improper (the union directed west can be seen from the word “EAST” on >> the background wall) . Image captured February 4, 2017 (c) R. Simmons
Proper. Image captured February 14, 2017 (c) R. Simmons

Authors Ross Simmons and his son, Hunter, are life members of the National Eagle Scout Association, and Ross is Scoutmaster at Imperial’s Troop 4070. Have a question of Flag Etiquette? Please submit your questions or photos to submit@properstandard.com. (By submitting, you’re licensing content for use.)

By Hunter and Ross Simmons