I read with great interest Ken Trainor’s recent column on the tattered and torn American flag flying over the Mickey’s fast food joint. [My favorite flag, Viewpoints, June 30]  

As usual, Ken had a unique and thoughtful angle on this issue. However, I disagree with his overall premise.

He got it right with the opening sentence, “At first glance, this was one of my least favorite flags.” 

I agree. My favorite flag is one that’s handled with the dignity and respect it deserves as a symbol of our country. The folks at Mickey’s aren’t honoring our country. They’re desecrating its primary symbols and violating federal law in the process.

If they’re feeling all patriotic but are too lazy to raise and lower the flag each day, or at the very least take it down when the weather turns inclement, they shouldn’t bother hoisting it in the first place. Obviously, they’re not up to the responsibility entailed.

(Photo by Ken Trainor)
Mickey’s seems to have gotten the message from Ken Trainor’s column last week. A new flag is flying crisply over the Harlem Avenue fast food staple. (Submitted)

There’s nothing special about a tattered flag. It just reflects a lazy man’s idea of patriotism. 

Both sides of the political spectrum have been guilty here. Those who would attack the flag because they’re unhappy with the behavior of people entrusted to run our country are just as wrong. 

I’m on the political left; I don’t hesitate to criticize our elected leaders and other officials in either party. But the flag is as much a symbol of our hopes and dreams and better angels as it is the distressing realities of our current political situation. 

Disrespecting the most visible symbol of those higher values, for whatever reason, is, in my opinion, the coward’s way of confronting political opponents. 

For the record, federal law, i.e., 4 U.S. Code § 8. “Respect for flag” states in part:

(e) The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way.

The law also states “No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform.”

There are exceptions: “A flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations.”

Clearly, that doesn’t include using it to make shirts or halter tops or head scarves, (as we saw with many of the criminal right-wing yahoos who attacked our nation’s Capitol and killed and maimed law enforcement officers). Soiling the flag, whether with your sweat or other bodily fluids, is ignorant and disrespectful. 

Finally, section (k) of the law states, “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”

Not by letting the wind and rain slowly tear it to pieces. 

In any event, I’m done patronizing Mickey’s until they take down their old, battered flag and destroy it properly. I hope others feel the same.

Bill Dwyer is a longtime Oak Park resident and patriotic progressive.

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