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flags - more than just a bit of cotton?
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sminch
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Sep 28, 2005, 11:38 PM
 
i was just over in the thread about the guy who got hassled for flying a flag in the uk and i read the following...

I've actually done that but that was because he violated the regulations of the Icelandic flag (after dark, touched the ground kind of stuff). The police acted accordingly. Slapped the guy with a fine.
which got me thinking - a lot of people really do consider flags to be more than just a bit of cotton with a nice design on it, but it's something that i've never really been exposed to. in new zealand we're generally not all that patriotic, at least not in ways that would make us think of our flag as something special. it's only been illegal to burn the nz flag since 1981, and only once has anyone been arrested for doing so - even then, the conviction was overturned as "burning the flag is a legitimate form of protest".

http://home.clear.net.nz/pages/wpnz/...lagburning.htm

we're currently looking at changing our national flag (http://www.nzflag.com/flagswelike.cfm) and this has a fair bit of support, with no one really up in arms about the idea. the flag simply isn't that big a deal here. i have only once seen someone flying a nz flag outside their house.

clearly this leaves me a little baffled about the whole idea of, say, fining someone for letting a flag touch the ground. i know it's a symbol of your country, which probably extends to it being a symbol of your country's values etc, but i can't quite get my head around it.

i'm not trying to be thick, but can someone explain it to me? is it just new zealand that doesn't do the flag thing, as such?

sminch
     
mojo2
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Sep 29, 2005, 01:18 AM
 
Originally Posted by sminch
i was just over in the thread about the guy who got hassled for flying a flag in the uk and i read the following...



which got me thinking - a lot of people really do consider flags to be more than just a bit of cotton with a nice design on it, but it's something that i've never really been exposed to. in new zealand we're generally not all that patriotic, at least not in ways that would make us think of our flag as something special. it's only been illegal to burn the nz flag since 1981, and only once has anyone been arrested for doing so - even then, the conviction was overturned as "burning the flag is a legitimate form of protest".

http://home.clear.net.nz/pages/wpnz/...lagburning.htm

we're currently looking at changing our national flag (http://www.nzflag.com/flagswelike.cfm) and this has a fair bit of support, with no one really up in arms about the idea. the flag simply isn't that big a deal here. i have only once seen someone flying a nz flag outside their house.

clearly this leaves me a little baffled about the whole idea of, say, fining someone for letting a flag touch the ground. i know it's a symbol of your country, which probably extends to it being a symbol of your country's values etc, but i can't quite get my head around it.

i'm not trying to be thick, but can someone explain it to me? is it just new zealand that doesn't do the flag thing, as such?

sminch
sminch, I've served in the military and I guess you can surmise from the content of my posts I'm 'pro-America."

That said, I never have 'gotten' it either. To me it's just as you say, a few yards of cotton fabric in a pretty and distinctive design and colors and symbolically significant.

In a way it's not even as significant as someone's family photo or family Bible because there's only ONE of each of those and can't be replaced.

As far flags are concerned there are millions more to be bought if one is destroyed.

That's not to say that CERTAIN flags aren't very important. But those are usually because they flew over a particular battle or ship or over the US Capitol (yeah I know they raise and lower flags all day long just so these flags can be given as gifts and the tag will read, "flown over the US Capitol." I'm talking about the REAL US Capitol flag) or the flag that is given to the family of deceased service members.

Unless there's SOMETHING about the flag that makes it otherwise noteworthy, my personal feeling is that showing the flag courtesy and displaying and treating it with respect is appropriate.

But the way SOME folks treat it as sacred is hard for me to understand as well, sminch.
Give petty people just a little bit of power and watch how they misuse it! You can't silence the self doubt, can you?
     
James L
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Sep 29, 2005, 01:42 AM
 
I would normally agree with the OP, and surprisingly enough mojo too. I am incredibly patriotic to my country, but it isn't because of the design on our flag.

I had an experience last summer though that really touched me....

I was at the Smithsonian museum, the American History building, in DC. They had a section of American flags, including the Iwo Jima flag, etc.

In a room you could view through glass there was the star spangled banner. THE star spangled banner. The one the national anthem was written about. The one from 1813 (I think it was).

In the room was the flag, and a staff member who was working on it. An older gentleman was in front of me, and when he saw this he straightened up, had a tear in his eye, and saluted the staff member and the flag.

I tell ya.... I am one to mock those who get sucked in by the music, the fireworks, and all the other cheesy stuff people associate with "patriotism", but this really touched me. This gentleman was obviously a veteran, who loved his country, and you could see it.

Cheers,

James
     
dcmacdaddy
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Sep 29, 2005, 11:05 AM
 
Originally Posted by James L
I would normally agree with the OP, and surprisingly enough mojo too. I am incredibly patriotic to my country, but it isn't because of the design on our flag.

I had an experience last summer though that really touched me....

I was at the Smithsonian museum, the American History building, in DC. They had a section of American flags, including the Iwo Jima flag, etc.

In a room you could view through glass there was the star spangled banner. THE star spangled banner. The one the national anthem was written about. The one from 1813 (I think it was).

In the room was the flag, and a staff member who was working on it. An older gentleman was in front of me, and when he saw this he straightened up, had a tear in his eye, and saluted the staff member and the flag.

I tell ya.... I am one to mock those who get sucked in by the music, the fireworks, and all the other cheesy stuff people associate with "patriotism", but this really touched me. This gentleman was obviously a veteran, who loved his country, and you could see it.

Cheers,

James
Having seen this flag up clsoe and in person--I used to work at that museum and have been inside the glass display case that holds the Star-Spangle Banner--I can tell you there are those who work there who revere the flag like some would rever the "True Cross" and there are those who see it as nothing more than a large piece of fabric with complicated restoration and preservation needs. While there are differences of opinion on the emotional weight attached to this symbolic flag, everyone recognized, and respected, its tremendous historical significance.

My guess is that soldier felt a much more emotional attachment to it as a symbol than as a historical artifact. But having worked at the Smithsonian for over a decade I know that in every area of cultural/historical import there is some group claiming there objects deserve the most reverence possible and are fervently emotional about this belief. As such, I tend to look at all such claims for "demanded, obligatory" reverence with a bit of a jaundiced eye. For everything you ever wanted to know about the US Flag Code look here.
( Last edited by dcmacdaddy; Sep 29, 2005 at 11:37 AM. )
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James L
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Sep 29, 2005, 11:22 AM
 
Originally Posted by dcmacdaddy
My guess is that soldier felt a much more emotional attachment to it as a symbol than as a historical artifact.

Yup, and that is exactly what was so touching.

If it merely had historical significance it wouldn't have been anymore interesting than seeing the Apollo 11 capsule in the lobby of the Air and Space building (national mall building).

This gentleman obviously believed that the flag of his country was important, and when he saw one of the original flags of his country it moved him tremendously.

And, as you say, others walked by it like it was any other exhibit in a museum.
     
von Wrangell
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Sep 29, 2005, 11:26 AM
 
I guess IMO it's because of what the flag stands for. It took quite some time for us to get our own flag and we had to "fight" for our independence. And one of the symbols of independence is our flag.

So that is why I said and did what the OP quoted. Anyone treating our flag with disrespect (in one way or the other) is treating our country and history with disrespect. And that is something I won't tolerate and luckily our laws agree. And I guess being so isolated and few makes us even stronger patriots because we can see what just a little foreign influence can do to our culture and heritage.

Here is a quick overview of the laws we have for our flag.

To those against whom war is made, permission is given (to fight), because they are wronged;- and verily, Allah is most powerful for their aid
     
sminch  (op)
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Sep 29, 2005, 04:26 PM
 
It took quite some time for us to get our own flag and we had to "fight" for our independence. And one of the symbols of independence is our flag.
good point - and one which likely explains why many new zealanders don't give a damn about our flag. it was given to us by the uk, has the union jack in it, and the stars which make up the rest of it are almost identical to those in australia. if we went through something worthwhile to earn our flag then i reckon we' dview it completely differently.

sminch
     
Doofy
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Sep 29, 2005, 04:37 PM
 
Flags... ...hmmm.

I guess they're part of your identity, however much you may think they're not. They're the common bond between you and your countrymen, a representation of your cultural identity, something to rally around when times get rough.
Been inclined to wander... off the beaten track.
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SimeyTheLimey
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Sep 29, 2005, 06:03 PM
 
I'm not sure that anyone literally gets teary about a flag itself. It's more what the flag stands for. That can be a country, a community, a way of life, a religion, or, probably more to the point, the flag can stand for a person's sacrifice for a country, a community, a way of life, or a religion. I think that personal symbolism is why people get upset when people burn flags. What you are burning is a symbol. It's not seeing the symbol being desecrated that hurts, but the fact that the insult is aimed at what the symbol represents. Anyone who reveres what the flag represents will likely take that rather personally.

On the other hand, the proper and respectful display of a flag can be a powerful way to show respect for people who themselves revered the country, etc that the flag stands for. I'll give an illustration. A few weeks ago, I was in Key West. The cemetary is kind of a tourist site, and in one corner within it is a small military cemetary where many of the victims of the USS Maine are buried. That's the ship whose explosion in Havana in 1898 sparked the Spanish-American war. Each grave has a small American flag carefully placed next to it, which is a common protocol with veterans graves. But two of the graves had Union Flags. I have no idea why they are there, but there are two Royal Navy sailors who died in 1952 buried with the US sailors who died in 1898. The point is that those Union Flags were placed there with exactly the same care as the Stars and Stripes, because Britain is the country that those sailors had allegiance to. Their symbol was there to show them the proper respect. It was clearly intended as an honor.

That's just one example, I could choose others - like, for example, the decision by the Queen to fly the Stars and Stripes over Buckingham Palace after 9/11., or the flying of Allied flags when countries celebrate their liberation. It's not the cloth that is important, it's the symbolic value.

But still, I wouldn't want the US to make it illegal to burn a flag like you say is the case in NZ.
     
   
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