Un-American Photos, the First Amendment, and Other Ramblings

Un-American Photos, the First Amendment, and Other Ramblings

By some “real” Americans’ standards, this would be an “un-American” photo.

This past weekend, I photographed the ASAA (Alaska School Activities Association) football championship games for the Small School and Large School divisions. I arrived a little late for the first game, where the National Anthem was underway as I arrived at the gate set aside for those with ASAA credentials. I flashed my badge to the woman working the gate – an employee with First National Bank of Alaska, the premiere sponsor for all ASAA state tournaments – and started to proceed in. She told me to stop, that I could not go in because the National Anthem was still ongoing. I told her that I had work to do and kept going, to which she responded, “That’s un-American.”

This on the heels of Sarah Palin’s recent comments suggesting that there are parts of America that are un-American; or Michelle Bachman’s suggestion that the media should investigate possible anti-American members of Congress, a sort of Media Un-American Activities Investigation (ala “I have in my pocket a list of 71 employees in the State Department who are members of the Communist Party” and HUAC) – both absolutely ridiculous suggestions in and of themselves. But more ridiculous is the faux-patriotism exhibited by people who do not know the first thing about the National Anthem or the flag. If it is un-American to take pictures during the National Anthem, then a lot of photojournalists are being unpatriotic while exercising the First Amendment right to freedom of the press. Hey, “real” American lady, how else would you get your patriotic images of flag ceremonies and people honoring the flag during the National Anthem without guys like me taking pictures?  Besides, Title 36, Section 301 of the U.S. Code does not require that people remain immobile during the National Anthem. Rather, it indicates you should remove cover and put your hand over your heart. If you are military in uniform, you are required to salute. It also provides the option of merely standing at attention. From my own military experience – see last paragraph – it was drilled into me that when out of uniform, you are required to stand at attention; not put your hand over your heart.

But that is not where my diatribe ends. The constant disrespect shown for the flag itself since 9-11 warrants mention. For all of these supposed “good” Americans who ran out and bought a flag after 9-11, I have some questions for you. Why did you not own a flag before then? Were you not patriotic before 9-11? Also, why do you continue to fly your flag on your beater truck long after it has been reduced to a faded, shredded rag, in explicit violation of Section 8(e) of the U.S. Flag Code? And how about you retail operators, who don’t know how to hang a flag properly in your stores? When a flag is hanging suspended indoors, the flag field is required to point to the north (Section 7(o)). When hanging on a wall, the star field must be on the upper left corner when viewed from the inside (Section 7(i)). Yet, so many retailers just hang it up there, without any knowledge of how to give it respect. For those of you who display a flag at your home to show your patriotism, did you know that it violates the Flag Code to leave it after sunset if it is not lit properly? Under Section 6(a), it must be “properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.”

And then there is the whole flag lapel pin thing. Once again, the corporate media and right wing talkies gave Barack Obama a hard time for not wearing a flag lapel pin. Gov. Sarah Palin showed how really American she was by wearing a hand-made, beaded flag pin at her V.P. debate that was large enough to kill small animals. Yet what does the Flag Code say about wearing the flag on clothing? First, only the immediate family of a person serving in active duty of the U.S. Armed Forces may wear a service lapel pin of a design and manufacture approved of by the federal government. In addition, Section 8(d) provides the “flag should never be used as wearing apparel.” Finally, Section 8(i) states the “flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever.” Thus, if you are wearing some sort of flag lapel pin to advertise – often for political purposes – that you are a “true, patriotic American,” but are not wearing one approved of by the federal government to honor a member of your immediate family who serves in the Armed Forces, you are violating the Flag Code. That means you, Sarah.

And what about flag burning? Well, Section 8(k) of the U.S. Flag Code prescribes burning as the preferred method of disposing of a flag in a dignified manner after it has become too worn.

Of course, this only suggests to the lady at the security gate, and all others like her, that you should know what the hell you are talking about when you call someone un-American or proclaiming yourself a patriot. Perhaps you should also know WHO you are talking to as well. For example, if you are calling someone “un-American” who is a natural born citizen, former Boy Scout (including a member of the Order of the Arrow), a recipient of the American Legion Honor Award and decorated Navy veteran (these all describe me), then you really need to think about what it takes to be an American under your standards. Especially when that American is exercising his First Amendment right, a right he has spent time in uniform defending. Have you, lady?

One Response to “Un-American Photos, the First Amendment, and Other Ramblings”

  1. Mark M Says:

    Well said Carl. Perhaps there is something that makes a person a real stickler for convenient rules that reaffirm their views, while ignoring the inconvenient ones. People who quote Leviticus for politcal purposes come to mind.

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