In flag flap, a pass for St. Paul

Based on a letter to the Pioneer Press today, I was expecting a lot worse on St. Paul’s Wabasha bridge when I checked out the American flags on it today.

Tom Staffa of Falcon Heights, a military veteran, questioned the wisdom of putting the dozens of American flags on the bridge.

“The majority of the U.S. flags currently flown on the Wabasha bridge are in a tattered condition,” he wrote. “Allowing the U.S. flag to become tattered and neglected is a shame and needs to be corrected.”

He’s right. The corners of several of the flags are frayed — victims of a non-stop wind in a Minnesota winter. But they haven’t yet reached the point of obvious neglect.

Bob Collins | MPR News


Bob Collins | MPR News

That many of the flags are frayed does not by itself make for a disrespectful display. No flag can survive much of a Minnesota winter.

The U.S. Flag Code actually leaves the condition of the flag to the beholder:

(k) 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.

A ripped or torn flag obviously needs to be replaced. But a flag with frayed edges may not necessarily qualify as disrespectful just because it’s frayed.

Like this, for example.

In this Sept. 13, 2001 file photo, an American flag flies over the rubble of the collapsed World Trade Center buildings in New York. Beth A. Keiser | AP

Or this…

How do you know what constitutes a disrespectful display?

You just know.