Doyle-Schechtman: Rules Of Etiquette
06/27/11 7:55AM By Deborah Doyle-Schechtman  Download MP3
(HOST) Writer and commentator Deborah Doyle-Schechtman has discovered that Rules of etiquette apply to more than one's table manners.
(DOYLE-SCHECHTMAN) If the 4th of July is just around the corner, then all the attendant fanfare can't be far behind. As a nation we don't mess around when it comes to celebrating our country's birthday. We pull out all the stops, don our favorite red, white and blue apparel, fire up our grills, chill the beer, and unfurl the flags.
Happily, most of the black flies are gone by the 4th, but there's one thing that still never fails to bug me over the long holiday weekend. Believe it or not it has nothing to do with loud noises, opportunistic politicians, or family dynamics. It's not the neighborhood parties that go on long after I would like to have been asleep, or the fact that someone has taken the last deviled egg just as I sit down to eat. No, the thing that gets under my skin the most about the 4th of July is the flag unfurling. Yup. You heard me. The flag unfurling. The reason? Even the best-intentioned of us often get it wrong.
It's fair to say that this often unwitting breech of etiquette drives me to distraction. We're all guilty. Presidents are guilty. Political candidates are guilty. Extremists are guilty. Demonstrators are guilty. My great Aunt Fanny is guilty. Designers are guilty. Major corporations are guilty. And yes, I too have been known to take some creative liberties.
I mean, who knew that there was a U.S. Flag Code? That it was adopted in 1923 - 146 years after we had a flag, by the way. It was amended in 1976, and basically it tells those who would fly a flag exactly how to do it. There are rules for government, rules for civilians, and rules for the Armed Forces. Happily there are no penalties or enforcement provisions for non-compliance, or we'd all be in big trouble. On the other hand, if there were, we could make a significant dent in the national debt.
There are provisions of course for formal occasions, for when the National Anthem is played, or the Pledge of Allegiance is recited. There are more regulations for flying the flag at half-staff (half-mast falls to the Navy), for when exactly to fly it, how to carry it and how to care for it. By following a few simple rules, however, we civilians can easily rectify some of our most common transgressions. Such as:
The universal custom is to display the flag from sunrise to sunset. However, you can fly it for 24 hours a day if it's properly illuminated at night.
When the flag is displayed vertically for any reason, the union, or blue bit with the stars, should appear in the upper left corner.
When flying multiple flags from the same pole, the U.S. flag should always be at the top.
The flag under no circumstances should be carried horizontally, touch anything beneath it, be replicated on decorative or disposable items, autographed, or worn.
Guess maybe it's time break out the solid-colored tablecloth, and to retire that well-worn, star-spangled T-shirt.