In keeping with the sanctity of our national standard, it is not to be trifled with at the end of its usefulness. Take one of the observations of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address; the greatest victories for freedom cannot be celebrated without solemn and reverent thought being given to their costs. So too, as the emblem of our freedom, the flag is not deserving of respect and admiration during its useful life, only to be cast aside and thoughtlessly discarded when that useful life is over. This is to say a flag, no matter how beaten, battered and useless, is never mere “trash.”
“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.” Flag Code, Section 8(k).
It you do not have the time or facilities to properly dispose of a flag of the
United State of America (meaning its dignified destruction,
not its mindless discard), please seek out those who do. Most American Legion Posts regularly conduct
a dignified flag burning ceremony, often on Flag Day. You may also contact Boy Scout Troops in your
area to do the same. Granted, this sign
of respect may take time you don’t have, but the freedom the flag of the United States of America
memorializes is a tribute to those who gave their lives for you to fly your
flag. While flying the flag alone may
provoke pride, it is the more general responsibility to the flag as an anthem,
for all that it stands, that symbolizes your respect for all that we have as
citizens of the United States of America.
Question: I live in a city, and cannot burn anything (much less a flag) consistent with the laws of my municipality. What do I do?
Answer: The retirement of a flag of the
States of America is a solemn and reflective
event. It’s easy to buy a flag, and we
would encourage you to accept responsibility for having done so, and retire it
by destruction, the way it should be retired.
A fireplace, a barbeque, a picnic area or nearby campsite can provide
the venue for this occasion, and a terribly worthwhile and reverent event for
family and friends. If you cannot or
choose not to dispose of the flag properly, out of respect for those who gave
you the right to make that choice, seek out someone who will. A phone call or a chat with a neighbor asking
assistance…that’s not too much to ask.