Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy July 4th, please treat the flag correctly

I noticed an article in the Washington Post requiring US flags to be "born" in the USA. These are state-level laws, not a federal law, and as such are somewhat different in what each one requires. But the result is the same: people are astounded, the typical anti-global and anti-xenocentrism arguments come out, etc.

But wait, what about the Flag Code? That's right, US Code, Title 4, Chapter 1. This was the law for which Abbie Hoffman was arrested (and later acquitted) for wearing a shirt that looked like a US flag. The Flag Code does not stipulate anything specifically related to the country of origin of the flag, but Abbie's acquittal set a precedent which might apply to these states' laws. The state laws were deemed unconstitutional, since they dealt with the mutilation of the flag (mutilation is also covered by the Flag Code). The First Amendment protects political speech, and mutilation of the flag falls under that category.

The Flag Code is quite interesting in what it permits and forbids. After reviewing it, I realize that nearly every single instance I see of the flag would be illegal under the flag code. For example, the flag cannot be used as part of an advertisement. In fact, just about the only legal displays are flags on a pole or mounted to a building, retired at dusk or with an overnight light.

The protectionism that is thinly veiled in the "born in the USA" laws is rather detestable, but so is gross commercial misuse of the flag. Why are states so concerned with the country of manufacture, but not doing a single thing to enforce already-existing laws?

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