Worn on the Fourth of July? Not the Stars and Stripes

The Denver Post - - PERSPECTIVE -

might show a bit more deco­rum.

The Girl Scouts im­printed on my brain the rules for dis­play­ing and fold­ing an ac­tual flag. But I never thought much about us­ing flag im­agery in dress un­til about 10 years ago, while thumb­ing through an is­sue of Glam­our mag­a­zine. Its ven­er­a­ble “Dos and Don’ts” fash­ion col­umn forthrightly ad­dressed the mat­ter.

One pic­ture showed a fleshy woman in a flag bikini strad­dling a mo­tor­cy­cle. “It hurts just look­ing at this,” the cap­tion read. There was also a shot of ac­tress Far­rah Fawcett look­ing svelte in a snug long gown made of stars-and­stripes ma­te­rial. The train wip­ing the floor be­hind her was, in essence, an Amer­i­can flag.

Glam­our’s deputy style ed­i­tor at the time, Maryellen Gor­don, told me that the mag­a­zine had re­ceived mixed re­ac­tions to the sharp cri­tique. “Some say ‘bravo,’ ” she said. “Some say they think they are be­ing pa­tri­otic.”

For an idea of how loose the stan­dards have be­come, con­sider what CBS did in 1970 when rad­i­cal Ab­bie Hoff­man ap­peared on “The Merv Grif­fin Show” in an Amer­i­can-flag shirt. It blocked out Hoff­man’s torso so as not to of­fend the au­di­ence.

Skip to 2004 and Kid Rock is per­form­ing at a Su­per Bowl half­time show wear­ing an Amer­i­can-flag pon­cho, hole cut out for his head. CBS did noth­ing about it, al­though some old-timers com­plained. Then-Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia fumed that the rap­per should have been “tarred and feath­ered and rid­den out of this coun­try on a rail.”

The Flag Code states that Old Glory is to be dis­played only be­tween sun­rise and sun­set, though it may fly il­lu­mi­nated at night for “a pa­tri­otic ef­fect.” And there are other ex­cep­tions. The flag may be flown 24 hours a day at Fort McHenry in Bal­ti­more, the Lex­ing­ton Bat­tle Green out­side Bos­ton and Taos Plaza in New Mex­ico.

By the way, there’s no ob­jec­tion to drap­ing one’s car, one’s home or one­self in pa­tri­otic red, white and blue — with­out the stars and stripes. And flag lapel pins are OK, as long as they’re worn near the heart.

The Free­dom to Dis­play the Amer­i­can Flag Act of 2005 af­firmed the right of home­own­ers to fly the flag on their own prop­erty. Some real es­tate man­age­ment groups had been re­strict­ing such dis­plays.

Many Amer­i­cans don’t give a youknow-what about such “rules.” I like a mid­dle course. Let peo­ple use their dis­cre­tion, and just so you know, the flag is

not a rag. E-mail Froma Har­rop at fhar­rop@gmail.com. Fol­low her on Twit­ter: @Fro­maHar­rop

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