David Arnholt, Moorhead, Published August 18 2012
Critics don’t get US flag etiquetteFlag etiquette must not be covered in schools now. Both Duke Gomez-Schempp’s “Pious attitudes in flag debates” published Aug. 5 and Andrew Schultz’s “Half-staff flag right for nation,” also published Aug. 5, are wrong regarding flying the flag at half-staff.
They are quite correct to feel sorrow for the death of innocent civilians just going to a movie or, a little over a year ago, the shooting in Arizona involving Gabby Giffords, her staff and others just attending a political gathering. However, this is no reason to fly the flag at half-staff. The flag has been at half-staff so much that it has lost much of the meaning attached to it.
For those with an interest in flag etiquette I suggest the following web site: www.usflag.org/nffhalfstaff.html, which covers when you fly the flag at half-staff and why you would fly it at half-staff. To briefly cover the subject, by order of the president, the flag will be flown at half-staff upon the death of principal figures of our government and the governor of a state, territory or possession, as a mark of respect to their memory. It can also be flown for other government officials or foreign dignitaries, as long as the president orders it and it is not in violation of existing laws.
Notice that this does not cover military vets killed in the line of duty or civilians doing what civilians normally do, such as go to a movie or go shopping. When people want to fly the flag at half-staff for these victims, it is understandable but it is also a “good faith understanding,” which is understandable but not within the concept of proper flag etiquette.
As a retired member of the Air Force, I find it discouraging that our national flag would be cheapened by overuse of a well-meant but misused practice.
To quote the website I mentioned, “We grieve these human losses deeply: however, we believe proper respect for our flag must be maintained – no matter the circumstances. We owe that respect to our living, our dead, and our flag.”