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Letter: Flag etiquette a lost art

The symbolism of flags has been lost.
Union Jack Flag
An upside-down flag is a symbol of distress, but it takes a sharp eye to discern that placement of the Union Jack.

Dear Editor

Once upon a time students in school were taught flag etiquette, customs, traditions and language.

I don’t believe in worshipping flog as some countries do, but I believe in respect. Of course it’s hard to respect the flag of any nation which for generations has allowed dictators to foster war and famine, death and destruction.

More Canadian flags are flown every year; I hope it doesn’t get overdone.

I don’t know why any manufacturer would make short flag poles. More of them are being used. I would not touch one with a 10-foot pole.

One reason is because people have forgotten, or more likely never knew, the method of flying a flag at half-mast. The correct method: run the flag down then run it up to the top of the pole. Carefully slowly, run it down the width of the flag.

Most run the flag halfway down the pole. With a short pole that means a large flag will drag on the ground, an insult.

Then we see two flags on one of those short poles. No, no, no. It is an insult to the lower flag, which is permanently at half mast, thus permanently representing mourning.

I have four tall flag poles. The tallest flies the Canadian flag, the next lowest the flag of the Saskatchewan, next lowest the Union Jack of the British Commonwealth. The shortest one flies the Red Ensign on Nov. 11 or perhaps will have fluttering in the breeze, the flag of a visitor from another country.

One night in July 2011 this farmstead was hit by a terrible plow wind. It lasted one hour during which it broke off or rippled out more than 300 70-foot-tall spruce trees. No structures were damaged but the three flag poles in use were snapped off and the flags thrown on the ground.

Since I could photograph but not touch anything until the adjuster arrived, I had to leave the flags. When the adjuster came, he saw the flags and proved himself a person of the old school when he dashed to them and started to unfasten them and fold them. I too began to rescue them, but I had to smile. It’s so seldom one meets someone who knows flag care.

I’ve heard of people flying a little Canadian flag on a little stick from their vehicle, but flying it upside down. Are we to understand that someone in the vehicle is in distress?

An upside-down flag, particularly during the days of sail was a frightening signal. Was someone very ill? Or was the ship starting to sink? Flags were indeed used to signal messages. Mind you, it took a sharp eye to tell if the Union Jack was upside down.

Up to now, however, the worst treatment of a flag I’ve seen is a Canadian flag tied to the foot of a light standard by the highway that I cross to get my mail.

It is, of course, On the ground in the mud and gravel.

I see flags flown until they are just a torn, faded, rag, which is bad enough, and if this is the new language of flags its bad language.

Christine Pike



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