Americans break the Flag Code every day. Most of the time, they have no idea.
Photo: Michael Holzworth / DoD
"What's really interesting to me is how passionately people follow some rules, and then they don't know or don't care about tons of other ones," said Michael Green, a published vexillologist, or student of flag history, symbolism, and usage.
Green says Americans generally know some key points of the U.S. Flag Code, like keeping flags in good condition or folding them correctly. However, Americans often disregard or are ignorant of other Flag Code guidelines.
"When you go to a football game, and there's a big flag on the field, and all the people are holding it and waving it--that's against Flag Code," said Green on First News at Four. "Or on the football helmets...you cannot have the flag as part of an athletic uniform."
But Green makes one thing clear: violators of the Flag Code are not violators of the law, even those who burn a United States flag in protest. The Supreme Court ruled into 1990 that the Flag Code is not an enforceable law, and no one can be prosecuted for breaking it. It's part of Americans' First Amendment rights.
"In the end, the flag is just a tool to represent the United States of America," Green said. "So even as a flag researcher, a vexillologist--I care about flags more than most people--I don't get offended at all when people break the Flag Code because it's just a bunch of rules."
However, one thing will offend this particular vexillologist:
"What offends me the most...is when people start changing the actual meaning of the flag and saying 'I belong to this, and you don't,'" said Green. "And the American flag, by design, was expandable: we add a new star for every state. To say, 'This is my symbol, and it's not your symbol,' that goes against the heart of the flag."
For the full conversation, see the video player above. For an article written by Green himself for Texas A&M Today, see the Related Links.