Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Flag Code

I suppose that I was instructed in the U.S. Flag Code through the Boy Scouts, learning among other matters when to display the flag, namely from sunrise to sunset, and never in inclement weather. It is my impression that the exception
However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.
was added, or at least not widely used until about 35 years ago, and that it took me a while to become accustomed to seeing the flag flown at night.

This came to mind the other day when I saw a man in front of the National Geographic Building lowering the flags, the National Geographic Society's first. Certainly I've seen school children on flag details over the years, but by now I imagine the flag as always flying.

There is an exception also on the inclement weather rule, which reads
(c) The flag should not be displayed on days when the weather is inclement, except when an all weather flag is displayed.
For much of the bicentennial year, 1976, I held a job where my duties included raising and lowering the flag on a very large pole--probably 30 feet--in front of the office. Denver has generally good weather during the summer, but can have violent thunderstorms in the late afternoon. One such afternoon the receptionist pointed out to me that a storm was approaching, and that the flag was still up. I knew that this was so, and I had a good idea of the distance of the storm (close) and the speed of its approach (fast), for I knew the rule of thumb that counts a mile for every six seconds in the interval between flash and bang. I had very little desire to be standing next to a 30-foot steel pole during an electrical storm; but something in the receptionist's expression precluded my explaining this, and I needed the job. Though the code says
(b) The flag should be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously. 
 I must say that that afternoon's lowering was brisker than it was ceremonious. Old Glory and I got a bit damp, but there were no other ill effects.

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