By Jim Boylan
Who is it that decides to put up the massive public display of flags every summer on utility poles around The Valley? I am curious what public or private entity feels that it is appropriate to festoon our public thoroughfares with flags and why is it that more flags are the norm.
At some of our countries most patriotic and shining moments there was not a mass display of flags.
- Fort McHenry only had one flag thus the line “and the flag was still there”
- At the center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge in Gettysburg as the Union army (including several Vermont units) broke Pickett’s charge, marking the “high water mark of the confederacy” paintings based on contemporary accounts show one or two union flags.
- Pictures of Lincoln’s address commemorating that victory at Gettysburg only show one or two flags.
- The marines on Mount Suribachi only had one flag and Neil Armstrong planted one flag on the moon and both went down in history.
Conversely the rioters who attempted to overthrow our Democracy on January 6 had many U.S. flags, some, as clear visual evidence shows were used as weapons against Capitol and D.C. Metro police officers who defended the Capitol that day.
It seems to me that no matter how an individual feels about our flag one would think that the public officials or whoever it is who decides to put up these flag displays would at the very least have respect for the flags they are putting on display.
This brings me to my flag etiquette concern. It concerns me that here in The Valley and elsewhere in Vermont people seem to think that “honoring the flag” means hanging it on utility poles unlit 24 hours a day in good weather and bad until the flags look like faded rags.
There is a United States Flag Code,
Section 6. Time and occasions for display
It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.
Many of the flags on utility poles around The Valley are not illuminated and are clearly out of compliance with the code. In several cases here in Waitsfield we have the odd “Valley” flags on poles that are illuminated and the very next pole has a U.S. flag that is not illuminated. It is also not clear if a streetlight counts as “proper illumination.” It appears to me that the “utility pole patriotism” that is going on here in The Valley and elsewhere is misguided and not respectful of the flag.
I would much rather see a well done centrally located community flag pole that is illuminated all night and is respectful, than this odd proliferation of out-of-compliance slipshod displayed flags throughout our towns.
I urge you as you drive through downtown Moretown, Warren and Waitsfield and take note of the improperly displayed flags and communicate your concern about these violations of the U.S. Flag Code to your select board members.
I have sent a copy of this letter to the select boards on The Valley towns, as well as Green Mountain Power and Waitsfield Telecom who own the utility poles to make sure they are aware of these violations of the U.S. Flag Code.
I hope that whoever is responsible for our proliferating “utility pole patriotism” will abide by the flag code and take down those flag displays that are out of compliance with the code.
Boylan lives in Waitsfield.