Bob Lamb/U.S. Navy
Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, left, speaks with a fellow Vietnam vet during the annual Rolling Thunder ride in Washington, May 30, 2005.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, left, speaks with a fellow Vietnam vet during the annual Rolling Thunder ride in Washington, May 30, 2005. Bob Lamb/U.S. Navy
Abbie Hoffman is arrested in October 1968 while trying to interrupt a meeting of a subcommittee of the House Committee on Un-American Activities in Washington. The panel was investigating the riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
Abbie Hoffman is arrested in October 1968 while trying to interrupt a meeting of a subcommittee of the House Committee on Un-American Activities in Washington. The panel was investigating the riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. © Bettmann/Corbis
Yippie Abbie Hoffman was arrested in one while protesting the Vietnam War in 1968. Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wore one while joining fellow Vietnam veterans for a tribute this past Memorial Day. Their attire? Shirts that looked like flags.
On this Flag Day, Melissa Block talks to Marc Leepson, author of Flag: An American Biography about the history of the flag as symbol of American pride and protest.
When Hoffman was arrested outside a U.S. House building in 1968, most states had flag-desecration laws on the books. His conviction was overturned on appeal. And in 1989 and 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the statutes unconstitutional.
Today, wearing flag-like attire does violate the flag code, which proscribes the care and display of the Stars and Stripes but is rarely enforced. "It's kind of a little strange paradox in that people are venerating the flag for the most part and technically violating the U.S. flag code," Leepson says.
Below is a section of the flag code that deals with respecting the flag.
The Flag Code - Respect for Flag
No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America; the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing. Regimental colors, State flags, and organization or institutional flags are to be dipped as a mark of honor.
(a) The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.
(b) The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.
(c) The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.
(d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free.
Bunting of blue, white, and red always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker's desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in general.
(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.
(f) The flag should never be used as a covering for a ceiling.
(g) The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.
(h) The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.
(i) The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkin or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.
(j) No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.
(k) 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.
Source: The American Legion