This is how you disrespect the flag

Dear marathoners making a show of patriotism:

Don’t do it by wearing the flag or wiping your nose with it. Maybe read the U.S. flag code sometime.

  • Mike Worcester
  • Rixware

    The flag is just a symbol. If this were some sort of political statement, I would accept it as such, and try to consider its message (while simultaneously thinking it ill-conceived and needlessly crass).

    The tragedy in the act depicted in this photo is that it demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding for what the flag actually symbolizes — or worse, how such symbolism itself even works. Such acts dilute the power of the flag to the point where it is merely a logo, a graphic element which is shorthand for “America,” separate from, and uninhabited by, the principles for which it supposedly stands.

    Far from a display of patriotism, it is a display of ignorance. Far from a display of love for country, it is a display of blind allegiance to a national “team.”

    Sadly, it is also the political moment in microcosm.

  • AmiSchwab

    show the picture to donnie and see what he says. probably nothing because she’s white and a “winner”.

  • jon

    I was in the car with my wife, and noticed a flag hanging in a window, the wrong way… I let out a heavy sigh and my wife asked why, I said “flag code violation.”
    She said, “The car in front of us with the little flag in tatters tapped to the antenna.”
    I said “nope, we past the one I saw, but there is the american flag at half mast up ahead flying next to other flags at full mast.”

    Three flag code violations in the span of less than a half mile…

    I can’t even count the number of times I’ve seen the flag on the wrong side of a stage (to the audience it should appear on the left if it’s on the stage, and to the right if it is not on the stage)

    Now I know other countries don’t care about this stuff as much as we do in the US, half the UK can’t tell when their flag is being flown upside down… When my dad was in australia, no one could tell him how to fold an australian flag, (turns out they roll them up so they can be unfurled on the flag pole with a quick tug) and that included members of the armed services there. (ask anyone who has ever been in the military for a period of time how to fold a US flag and they will be able to tell you.)

    Maybe it’d be ok if we all took the flag a little less seriously.
    It would sure take a bite out of the impact that burning one has if we all took it less seriously…
    Though when the same group announces that desecration of a flag is the worst thing imaginable, and then cuts a hole in one and wears it like a poncho… you have to wonder about the hypocrisy.

  • Gary F

    Just remember, if you win an event like this and the spotlight will be on you, and social media.

  • Kassie

    To be fair to the athlete, how much blood is being routed to her brain at that point? I’ve got to imagine she wasn’t thinking straight. Maybe the key takeaway is don’t hand someone who just ran a marathon a flag? It looks like she used it just like she would use one of those blankets they hand runners after the race.

    • This is a tradition that started in track and field some years ago and has been passed down . Nobody, it seems, ever bothered to point out the irony.

  • Rob

    I’m paraphrasing the U.S. Flag Code, but it says something to the effect of:
    “Feel free to shamelessly exploit and abuse the flag in any way you see fit.”

  • Alberto Sappwood

    This is a fairly petty blog post.

  • Laurie K.

    It is too bad that this is our focus this morning rather than the fact that an American woman won the New York Marathon for the first time in 40 years. Ms. Flanagan was rightly very emotional, I seriously doubt she even realized what she had done. I honestly think that we’ve gone too far with our knee jerk reaction to blindly calling someone unpatriotic for a momentary lapse where she clearly had no intent whatsoever to be disrespectful. I agree with another person’s post here – maybe let’s just not wrap a flag around athletes the minute they complete a major milestone.

    • You’ll note the link leads to the MPR story about the woman winning the marathon for the first time in 40 years. A story which appeared on the MPR home page. So we can do both.

      I doubt the people wearing an American flag bra want to be disrespectful either. It’s just that they are.

      We talk about respecting the flag as a national issue, oblivious to the fact most of us don’t even know what that means.

      It means you don’t wipe your nose on it. Even if you won a marathon.

      Even if you’re a woman happy her candidate has been nominated.

      Don’t do it.

        • She actually cut that flag, didn’t she?


          • She’s a Minnesotan, too.

          • I know…

            /I always think of the flag code whenever i drive by a Perkins or auto dealer…

          • There’s nothing in the flag code about a business flying a flag. Its explanation on the marketing would seem to suggest that merely flying the flag is not itself “marketing”.

          • The “marketing and advertising” aspect about the GIANT flag outside of Perkins or the sheer abundance of flags at many auto dealers has been debated many times.

            Both of those examples reek of using the flag as marketing.

          • That’s open to interpretation, yes.

          • jon

            I’ve seen giant perkins flags touch the ground on calm days after a national tragedy…

          • Rob

            She obviously didn’t get the following memo, issued by John Prine and addressed to pseudo-patriots everywhere:

            Your Flag Shawl Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore

          • crystals

            She sure is. I’ve seen her on Almanac. I would love to hear her try and justify the difference between what she did to this flag and what players in the NFL are doing every week.

      • >>It means you don’t wipe your nose on it.<<

        The First Amendment says otherwise.


        • Nobody’s making any sort of argument that what she’s doing is illegal. So it’s not a constitutional question and that’s not in play at all. It’s a question of whether you can respect and celebrate the flag symbl while simultaneously disrespecting it according to definition?

          I say you can’t.

          When you wave the flag you’re making a statement. When you wipe your nose with it, you’re making another one whether you intend to or not.

          • Agreed.


          • jon

            I’ll make the argument that it’s illegal… US flag code is still the law, only the repercussions for violating that law were struck down by the supreme court… so illegal yes, punishable by anything, nope, just a symbolic law.

          • I tend to think of it more as a definition and guideline. The word that appears most often in it is “should”.

          • jon

            There are more than a few shall’s in there…

            But most of those are with regard to using the flag for advertising purposes…
            And we’ll never be able to punish corporations for anything much less a law that has no actual consequences for violating it, especially now that corporations have first amendment rights.

          • Irony is usually thick where waving the flag is concerned. The Minnesota law requiring that anyone selling flags MUST sell flags made in the USA (a Tommy Rukavina law) is but one example.

          • jon

            Can we flip that around?
            Can we require any one selling a confederate flag that it MUST be made in … let’s say Nigeria.

            Because that could be it’s own kind of fun.

          • Alas, Rukavina has retired to the genteel life of a county commissioner.

  • Angry Jonny
    • But it’s not touching the ground.

      • Angry Jonny

        In that picture, sure. Would you agree that it’s safe to say that a little more image searching would yield a touching-the-ground result?

  • Guest

    You want flag irony??? Burning the flag is expected as a legit way of disposal by the flag code. Tradition says flying the flag upside down is a legit cry for help (back when they needed a method), neither originally was meant as disrespect.

    However it is now widely meant and understood as a sign of disrespect.

    • Actually burning the flag in the manner we see in protests was always a sign of disrespect. And that’s now how the flag is burned for disposal.

      When a flag is burned for disposal, it is folded into the tri-corner state. After the flag is burned, the ashes are buried.

      That was not a sign of disrespect in the past; it’s not a sign of disrespect now.

      • Guest

        Valid points. I stand corrected.