Flags Along the Way

As I was driving through Milton this morning I noticed a United States flag.   It stood out because it was faded and tangled in the cross post on the pole.  It looked like it had been there a long time.  Someone had cared to put it up but then what happened?  Had it been forgotten?  Did they just leave it up all the time?  How long had it been tangled there?

Then I noticed other U.S. flags.  There was a flag on a pole part way up a utility pole, and another on the next pole.  I wondered if there would be many on many poles, but the next few utility poles were bare of flags.  Then, around the bend, there was flag after flag, all of them hanging toward the road, red, white and blue stretching down Route 7.  It was a lot of flagness there in Milton.

I realized that I just don’t notice U.S. flags anymore.  They are everywhere.  Had these flags been there a long time?  Or had they been hung recently, for Memorial Day?  They might have been there for months and I hadn’t noticed them on my many travels through town.  Or maybe they had only been there a few days.  I certainly hadn’t noticed them yesterday, or last week.

I then noticed the flag at the post office.  You can count on that one.  And there was a flag at the bank.  And others scattered about.  I thought that maybe I would count them on the way home, but I forgot.

I remember as a kid hanging a flag.  I don’t know how long we did that but I do remember raising it the morning and lowering it at night.  We weren’t always good about it.  Sometimes we left it up all night, or for several days straight.  According to the U.S. Code on such matters, one should not fly the flag at night unless it is fully lit.  We blew it on that one.  We always folded it properly and stored it well but the lighting thing didn’t happen.  Moreover, one shouldn’t fly the flag in inclement weather.  Oops.

I recently read an article in Grist about whether one can ignore the flag codes and fly the flag at night without lighting it, to save energy.  Wouldn’t that be patriotic?  Use less energy but still fly the flag?  The article suggested simply not flying the flag at night, or using a motion sensor light so if someone passes by they flag would be lit and thus be visible.  Sounded good to me.

I heard a story on NPR recently about a pastor who is flying his flag upside down in Chicago.  That usually, according to flag codes, should be reserved strictly as a signal of distress.  His point is that so many youth are being killed by firearms every year that his city faces an crisis.  He noted that within 48 hours we mobilized to inform and protect people from swine flu, a threat that was unclear at best, yet we can’t stop youth gun violence that has been happening for years?  I have no quibble with his approach, despite local veterans who might find it unpatriotic.  One does what one must.

I imagine I will be noticing flags a lot now.  Richmond used to post them on utility poles for July 4th.  I sometimes didn’t notice them at first but then saw them everywhere.  I imagine that will happen again.  I can’t imagine flying one myself any time soon, but I know that I will manage to see them, even when I am not looking.

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