Skip to comments.Flying The Flag at Half-Staff: A State of Perpetual Victimhood (VANITY)
Posted on 09/16/2012 8:01:54 AM PDT by rlmorel
It seems like everywhere I look now, the flag is at half-staff. And it seems like it has been this way for the past year, if not years.
What is going on here?
Please don't misunderstand me. I am fully onboard for the show of mourning and respect the act engenders when done for appropriate circumstances. To pay respect to this man, for example is entirely justified:
And, so is this, in my opinion:
I simply believe it is being over-used, and it is not a positive thing.
Here are the guidelines which codify when the flags are flown at half-staff:
1.) For thirty days after the death of a current or former president or president-elect (as occurred after the death of President Reagan and the death of President Ford.)
2.) For ten days after the death of a current vice president, current or retired chief justice, or current speaker of the House of Representatives.
3.) From the day of death until interment of an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, a secretary of an executive or military department, a former vice president, or the governor of a state, territory, or possession.
4.) On the day of death and the following day for a Member of Congress.
5.) On Memorial Day until noon.
These seem somewhat appropriate to me, but it is the last one that I have an issue with:
6.) Upon presidential proclamation.
This is problematic for me, because due to Presidential proclamation, we have seen the following: the interment of Frank Buckles, the death of Senator Ted Kennedy; the death of Pope John Paul II, the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003, the victims of Hurricane Katrina, the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, the deaths of Coretta Scott King and Rosa Parks, Virginia Tech massacre, Fort Hood massacre, the death of Libyan Ambassador Chris Stephens, and the 2012 shooting in Aurora Colorado.
The flag was even flown in one state at half-staff for Whitney Houston! A talented person whose life ended early because of her various drug abuses. A shameful example.
I hope people don't misunderstand my feelings on this. Some of those presidential proclamations listed above are legitimate (in my opinion) and it is true some I disagree with may be legitimate to others. Furthermore, It is not that I think people who die in natural disasters or killed in shootings by deranged people are trivial, they are not; nobody is trivial to themselves and the world that surrounds them.
But is it always a situation for official national mourning?
During WWII, when did we fly the flag at half-staff? After the B-17 raids on Schwienfurt? After the unexpectedly bloody conquest of Tarawa? When we had 6000 Americans killed in 30 days of fighting on Iwo Jima? After the Normandy invasion? When the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed? I don't know, perhaps another Freeper knows where to find that information, but I'll bet not all of those. But lately, I have been unable to view an American flag that has not been flying at half-staff except for perhaps, my own.
This has been nagging at me a long time now, and it came to a head with the lowering of the flag in tribute to the murdered diplomats in Libya.
We did not value those diplomats enough to provide them adequate protection in an environment where the acts of abduction and beheading are well established, but we value them enough to lower the flag for them? I guess this means that if Valerie Jarrett meets an untimely end, she will most definitely have the flag lowered to half-staff in her memory.
That is logical, right?
But my problem with this particular exercise is not the inconsistency, it is the message it sends to us as citizens, and to the world in general: That we are victims.
I personally think this is unhealthy, both from an individual moral and psychological standpoint, but also unhealthy (and dangerously so) from national and international perspectives because it makes us look weak. And if even if the pig-eyed medieval thugs inhabiting many parts of the middle east can't figure out how to use a flush toilet, they readily understand and recognize weakness.
Perhaps most of all, I hate living in an environment where people constantly have their heads bowed in mourning at the behest of the state. I believe that there are appropriate situations to do just that, but to do it constantly is corrosive and dangerous, and renders it meaningless. But a country that constantly has its eyes on the ground CANNOT do great things or be a leader, and that is where I see the current state of affairs leading to.
Flying the flag at half staff is meant to remember those who died in some way in service to their country.
If, by some misfortunate you die for our country, we will try to make a note not to lower the flag for you. Deal?
You are reading my mind. Same goes with the term hero. Overused to the point of being meaningless.
I know at least one person who has been flying the flag at half-staff for years. He is in mourning for his country.
Others, like me, decline to fly Old Glory at all, not as long as that JEF can sully her reputation at home and abroad. The Gadsden comes out on certain special days— the last was 9/11/12— and flies from the top or the pole.
Actually, if the flag is at perpetual half mast, it loses it’s meaning. Our flag is not dipped to others. Yes, it should be only flown at half mast for people who have done something heroic for our country. Now half mast is usually nothing more than a political statement or a fond farewell to another politician.
I also agree. This is starting to bother me too. It seems as though the flag is ALWAYS flying at half mast.
I am not even sure you read the vanity posting, chainmail.
You said: "...Flying the flag at half staff is meant to remember those who died in some way in service to their country...", so we are in agreement with that. If you read my vanity, where did I cast aspersions on that?
Furthermore, if you make that point, how does that invalidate my point? Where did the person(s) shot in the Sikh temple "die for their country"? Where did Whitney Houston "did for her country"?
And do we do it all the time for everything? Should we just put the flag at half-staff and leave it there?
Now that I have narrowed it down for you, would you be kind enough to comment on it in that light for me?
We are of the same mind. See my longstanding Freep page.
“Flying the flag at half staff is meant to remember those who died in some way in service to their country.”
We’ve flown the flag half staff for shooting victims, for porn actresses, and all kinds of reasons. Our flag has been abused.
It may be that flying the flag upside down is a valid form of distress, but as distressed as I see our country, I haven't been able to bring myself to either fully approve or disapprove of this method.
I also see your point, and I think of it every time I drive up to my house and see my flag. Funny. I used to have an American Flag tie that I wore to work for years on days that seemed to ask for it, including election day. Since Obama was elected, I have been unable to wear it. It pains me that I have even begun to consider the appropriateness of flying MY flag, as you have done.
Again, I admit to being conflicted by it.
It’s at the point that the Albuquerque Journal has a box at the bottom corner of the front page indication if the flag is to be flown at full or half staff every day.
I think it has been debased to a certain extent.
Yes. It used to be that our heroes were those who had chosen danger for the safety of others.
Now it seems as if our ‘heroes’ are our victims—innocents who were killed needlessly. Now they are the ones we create ever greater memorials for.
I believe the flag MEANS something, it isn't just some blue, red and white cloth sewn together in a certain way. It is what that symbolizes that is important.
My dad's casket was wheeled in under the flag of the Catholic Church, and seeing it had very little effect on me. But seeing my dad buried under this flag, by these men, had a very different effect on me:
When people debase or burn a flag, that bothers me because I know that people like my father, myself and Chainmail have served under that flag, many have died and been buried under it, and it MEANS something. It isn't at all trivial to me and many others, even though it seems to be simply physical cloth.
In Vietnam, our POW's in some cells made a ritual out of saying the pledge of allegiance in front of a tattered, hand-sewn flag made from scraps of cloth. They did it every day they could, in defiance of the guards, and had to keep the flag carefully hidden lest it be discovered and rewarded with a beating, or worse. But these guys did it. They showed respect to it in circumstances I cannot even imagine.
I do feel that we are showing a form of disrespect by using the flag in this way, but worse, is the impact doing so must absolutely have on our national psyche.
You and I definitely on the same page on this issue, MY brother.
The day I took this picture, April 13, 2012, Illinois was flying their flags at half-staff for two days to honor CPL Alex Martinez, of the United States Marine Corps, killed in Afghanistan the previous week. Martinez was 21.
I agree with you on the Whitney Houston thing, but in most cases it's justified.
Healthy nations do not celebrate defeats.
I have no issues with circumstances surrounding our military killed in action.
I do understand your point of view. I readily admit to a degree of conflict over circumstances, and am still working it out.
Good post. Flying the national standard at half-staff should be reserved for truly appropriate occasions. Of course, since the current administration specializes in breathtakingly inappropriate behavior, I do understand it will take time to correct this issue.
This is also as good a time as any to remind Freepers of the difference between half-staff and half-mast. Flags over land fly at half-staff. Flags over water fly at half-mast. The terms are not interchangeable as many people assume.
Good to have you aboard, brother...:) We KNOW we are on the same page here!
But, you ARE correct!
Wow.. I was actually thinking about this the other day. Noticed all the flags around have been at half- for the past week or so (that I’ve noticed) and the only thing I could think of was 9/11. It is rather ridiculous.
1) 30 days after Pres/former is, I think, excessive. A week or tenday is sufficient.
2) Same for VP/Justices. Maybe 3-5 days.
3/4) Congressmen can have a half-mast in their state. For maybe a day or two, including Speaker. Cabinet/Dept heads, Secretaries, not really unless they fall under another category.
5) Memorial day, of course.
6) As Presidential decree, but it is way overused now. 9/11 understandable, Houston not so much. Some national heroes like Armstrong, or MoH recipients, but that’s about it. And this should only be a single day lowered.
7) Within a state, governors have I think some control over flag-lowering. Not sure exactly how much. Should be limited to state-specific things, and only State flags lowered.
Feel the same way, VERY few people know ANYTHING about flag etiquette. I have had to personally talk to several owners about replacing their flags (torn, worn out, etc.). Sad really. Here is a refresher for those interested.
This is how some SoCal high schools kids did it, not that long ago...http://t3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTcknSH2YPFjS0ntA4M2aZBI59E2jlsC67P-9Ttx-J7ZqbMXGi3sQ
When Zero ordered flags flown at half-mast for the murders in Colorado; I noted with some amusement that CANADIAN flags around Red Hampshire were also flying at half-mast. WTF?
Was the school under attack by Mexicans?
Alan Keyes used to wear a flag pin on his lapel upside-down for the same reason...not sure if he still does...
Rendering honors is now just another form of political correctness.
Obama (and Bush) has flown it at odd times- like for the Sikh shooting in particular, and the civil rights women mentioned & the Pope.
The outgoing Governor of Red Hampshire (Lynch) would lower the U.S. Flag every time a cop was killed in the line of duty...local or state; it didn’t matter. He has the power, but it still drove me nuts.
I flew my flag at half-staff the day Neil Armstrong died, on the anniversary of 9-11 and on the day that Ambassador Stephens died. I felt the need to honor these occasions. I didn’t read anywhere whether they were right or wrong.
I definitely agree with your post and I can’t SEE a flag on
a military coffin without tears coming to my eyes.
We lost 4 more servicemen today in Afghanistan. I wonder if it
is appropriate to lower my flag to half-staff for their deaths.
Do you know? I am seriously asking.......
I’m OK with a citizen flying his flag at half staff whenever they want to.
Governors have the authority to order the US flag flown at half staff when a resident of the state dies in the line of duty while in the military. I’m torn on this one. It’s a nice tribute, but what happens in wartime when it’s an everyday occurrence? Should the the nation have flown the flag half staff every day of WWII, or the Korean War?
In our state, the flag is flown at half staff if a state employee is killed while at work. This would include everything from death due to noble self sacrifice to showing up hungover and getting in an accident.
I’m not entirely comfortable with the proliferation of government decreed half staff events. Dilution of meaning through overuse is a real issue.
I deeply love Old Glory. The guidelines for flying the flag at half staff are just that — guidelines. They are designed for the appropriate display of our flag on military posts, government buildings, public property, etc. However, private citizens may choose to fly their flags at half staff as an expression of personal mourning.
I agree that official declarations at the national level to fly the flag at half staff have been overdone by Obama (OWHNI), who has used it to recognize individuals for political or social accomplishments. I consider that to be an abuse of the solemn purpose of flying the flag at half staff. National mourning should not be trivialized.
Though Obama (OWHNI) ordered flags to be lowered for the funeral of Dorothy Height, a civil rights activist in the 60s, he did not order the flag to be flown at half staff when a helicopter carrying Navy SEALS was shot down in Afghanistan last year. It was the greatest loss of life for any single military operation in the history of the SEALS.
The problem isn’t simply one of overuse. National appropriateness and solemnity should be the defining issues. For myself personally, I have been mourning for my nation by tying a black ribbon to the top of the flag pole. (That is the equivalent of half staff, when the flag is fixed on a pole and cannot be lowered.) See my post at
If things change this November, I will come out of mourning and remove the black ribbon.
Thank you for clarification. I will go out right now and
lower it for our dead heroes....as I mourn their senseless
deaths by people they trusted.
Private citizens may choose to fly their own flag at half staff as an expression of personal mourning. “Official” declarations to lower flags are only applicable to flags on public, municipal and military locations.
Thank you. I haven’t had my flag and pole for very long, and
always want to do the right thing. :)
It’s now at half-staff for the 4 troops killed.
On a personal note, I find your desire to pay tribute to our nation’s fallen warriors entirely appropriate and touching. It’s your flag, fly it at half staff when you feel the need. There is no law prohibiting it.
In fact, I feel that this sort of heartfelt display by citizens is more appropriate than the decrees of politicians. In my own case, had I died in the line of duty, I’d rather that my family, friends and others so inclined flew their own flags at half staff than have a governor decree that government workers do so for me.
I appreciate your kind words.
Since our family has it’s own 30’ flag pole, we use half-staff at our discretion. Tomorrow it will be at half-staff to honor my father’s death two years ago. He was in the Army Air Corps, an original member of the USAF, and a WWII and Korea war Vet.
Tomorrow is also Constitution day.
Lowering the flag in any instance is more disrespect for the flag rather than respect for the deceased. It should only be lowered in rare instances. Obama has no respect for the flag so he has no compunction to ordering it lowered often.
I don’t think I disagree with you...I think people can fly their flag at half-staff for a variety of reasons, and I think towns and municipalities or even states might as well. If a soldier from a town is KIA, I would have no issue with the town, city or individuals flying the flag at half-staff.
And because the government decrees it, I don’t always follow it. I didn’t when Ted Kennedy finally died. And I sure as Hell won’t when certain others go.
So I agree with you.
Generally speaking the lowering of the national standard is done by decree. To my mind it’s the same issue as flying the flag upside down.
When my father, who was a veteran, passed away, I wanted to lower the flag but didn’t. He’d have been most upset if I had and there was no direction to do so.
Thanks for letting me know. If I had owned my flag then, I would have probably lowered it for your dad and would have upset you. :(
God rest his sweet soul...
Dad taught me respect for the flag. He wouldn’t have wanted it lowered for him. But you’d have been sweet to consider it.
Thank you...I wouldn’t have wanted to do anything against his or your wishes. So, I’m glad I didn’t have the flag pole installed then.
Your Dad was an awesome man.....and one of my heroes.
Also IMHO, different from a display of the flag at half-staff because of personal mourning. Some I know do it on the anniversaries of certain events (space shuttle incidents, the deaths of Mother Teresa or John Paul II, etc.) Added together, people like this could add to the general sense that the flag is half-staff everywhere and all the time, but I will not judge them.