American Symbols: Tattered American flags upset you? about a tattered flag led to an online intervention last year. In 2010, a photographer near Spokane, Washington, was concerned about this ripped flag outside a local police department. After this flag photo was shown online, the police department immediately replaced it. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons. If you see a faded, ripped and torn Old Glory flying on a flagpole, how does it make you feel? Ashamed? Angry? Indifferent? Americans love the flag, as we’ve discussed on Our flags are potent symbols. On Memorial Day, we reported on a controversial debate over the POW/MIA flag.

Repeated waves of polling show: Almost all Americans say that seeing flags fly makes them feel good. Look around today—many flags raised yesterday for Memorial Day are still flying. But what about tattered flags?

Seeing a torn flag upsets many people—like a 30-year member of the Fraternal Order of Eagles when he returned home to Michigan after wintering in Arizona. He was appalled to find a ripped American flag still flying over the chapter’s lodge (known as an “aerie”). According to local media, he took it upon himself to replace it at his own expense. He claims he was suspended because of it, though the group disputes his claim.

Claims aside, what do you think of his action? 

Should he be congratulated for taking the initiative to replace the torn flag? He’s not alone in taking dramatic action—read the caption under the photo at right, today. The United States Flag Code spells out in great detail how the flag should be handled and cared for. There are many standards of respect. The flag should not be displayed as decoration, used to cover a ceiling, for advertising, as an article of clothing, stepped on, and so forth. A flag that is no longer serviceable should be disposed of properly. Flag Keepers, a voluntary organization, is one of many organizations that play that role. If you see a tattered or dirty flag, you can report it online to this organization and they will contact the owner or occupant of the building.

The United States Flag Code is law, but it is rarely enforced. The flag is often used in advertising, on clothes, picnic ware, and so forth. All are violations of the code. But the Supreme Court considers enforcing the code to be a violation of free speech. So, we are pretty much free to do whatever we want with the flag.

What’s your feeling about a tattered American flag?

Should the U.S. Flag Code be enforced?

Originally published at, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.



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