View Poll Results: How should I deal with the flag illumination situation?
Bite the bullet and install spotlights 4 5.33%
Take down the flag, you don't need the hassle 22 29.33%
You should be ashamed of glorifying a racist, misogynist, imperialist nation 2 2.67%
Take advantage of the ambient lighting loophole and enjoy your flag 30 40.00%
Other pertinent flag advice 17 22.67%
Voters: 75. You may not vote on this poll

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  #1  
Old 02-12-2020, 10:04 AM
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Fun with flags


We're in the process of moving into a home in Kentucky which has a towering flagpole with regulation-sized U.S. flag flying near the front entrance.

This is a nifty feature; however I was made aware by the home inspector prior to closing that we need to illuminate the flag at night (as per U.S. code).

"§174. Time and occasions for display

(a) Display on buildings and stationary flagstaffs in open; night 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 twenty-four hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.


There are no penalties for violating the U.S. Code as pertaining to the flag, nor (as far as I can tell) state sanctions either. While the flag does look nice at night when strongly illuminated, I am not eager to install powerful LED lamps at the base to illuminate it.

According to this semi-authoritative website, Whitney Smith, a noted vexillologist (flag expert) opines that it may be sufficient to have enough ambient lighting in the area so you can see the flag's colors, which our porch lighting accomplishes.

I do not want to be ridden out of town on a rail by a procession headed by the local American Legion post, so am hoping that Dopers can advise me on the best course of action.
  #2  
Old 02-12-2020, 10:11 AM
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Source of Whitney Smith flag wisdom: http://flagsinternational.com/is-lig...flag-required/
  #3  
Old 02-12-2020, 10:29 AM
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I voted to use the ambient light. Or couldn't you take it down at night? Probably a hassle though.

Enjoy your flag! It's nice to hear from someone that is proud to fly it.
  #4  
Old 02-12-2020, 10:36 AM
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I fly different flags from the wall-mounted pole next to my porch. No particular lighting used. But then, I never fly the US flag. But if I did, anyone who didn't like the lack of lighting could go jump in a lake.
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Old 02-12-2020, 10:50 AM
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I fly different flags from the wall-mounted pole next to my porch. No particular lighting used. But then, I never fly the US flag. But if I did, anyone who didn't like the lack of lighting could go jump in a lake.
I fly the American flag from a wall-mounted pole on my porch. I do not have any special lighting for it nor do I take it down at night.

Nobody has ever complained and if somebody did I would tell them to mind their own business.
  #6  
Old 02-12-2020, 11:00 AM
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Nobody has ever complained and if somebody did I would tell them to mind their own business.
Pretty much this.
  #7  
Old 02-12-2020, 11:08 AM
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Just fly the original 13-star flag and tell people they didn't have electric flag lighting in the 18th century.
  #8  
Old 02-12-2020, 11:43 AM
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We already have too much outdoor lighting. And illumination for a flag is the worst kind for light pollution - i.e pointing directly at the sky. Don't add to the problem. Just my opinion.
  #9  
Old 02-12-2020, 11:48 AM
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I'd think 'if properly illuminated' gives you a lot of wiggle room. Also, are you sure that code applies to private citizens, and not just official displays?
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Old 02-12-2020, 11:49 AM
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Why are the previous owners moving? Did they get run out of town by flag purists who were tired of them living there with their un-illuminated flag?! If so, then you best illuminate if you want a happy life. If not, then I'd venture to guess that nobody cares.

My dad (a Vietnam combat veteran, so, you know, he's the official guide to flags or something?) flies a flag on a short metal rod that he has attached to the state's chainlink freeway fence (probably illegal) and the only illumination is the freeway lights high above, and he never takes it down. Nobody says anything.
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Old 02-12-2020, 12:37 PM
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Use your power as buyer and have the current owners correct the situation before the sale. The sellers will most certainly cave on the request, as fighting it would look bad. If you're lucky, they'll just offer to knock the cost of installation off the purchase price. If they do, raise the amount by 30% and agree to it. Free money.
  #12  
Old 02-12-2020, 12:46 PM
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I think you should buy a bugle and start doing a whole flag lowering/flag raising event at sunset and sunrise.
  #13  
Old 02-12-2020, 01:29 PM
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We're in the process of moving into a home in Kentucky which has a towering flagpole with regulation-sized U.S. flag flying near the front entrance.

This is a nifty feature; however I was made aware by the home inspector prior to closing that we need to illuminate the flag at night (as per U.S. code).
I'm amused that the home inspector mentioned this. How did he or she do in terms of actually inspecting the building and its systems?
  #14  
Old 02-12-2020, 01:41 PM
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Just take it down at night. If there's a Boy Scout in the neighborhood, maybe he can get a merit badge for doing Reveille and Taps ceremonies everyday, or once a week, even.
  #15  
Old 02-12-2020, 01:41 PM
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I'd take down the US flag and fly some other flag instead, perhaps a tribute to Teletubbies or something. A perk to this is you don't have to worry about the flag suffering wear and tear or anything else that might cause it to violate the flag code.
  #16  
Old 02-12-2020, 01:52 PM
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I am under the impression that you don't "need" to do anything; the "flag code" is more a set of recommendations than anything else.

Besides - didn't the Supreme Court rule that at least part of the flag code was unconstitutional?

What you "can" do and what you "should" do are two different things. You "can" fly the flag with the blue part farthest away from the flagpole, but nobody actually does this. If it was me, I would probably leave it unlit unless enough people complained that it became "an issue."
  #17  
Old 02-12-2020, 02:05 PM
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I don't know how accurate this article is, but supposedly Disney gets around it by using a non-regulation flag. Brings up the question why they don't just light it up.
  #18  
Old 02-12-2020, 02:22 PM
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Pick your favorite fictional nation and fly their flag/battle standard/coat of arms. No lighting regulations to worry about.
  #19  
Old 02-12-2020, 03:00 PM
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We already have too much outdoor lighting. And illumination for a flag is the worst kind for light pollution - i.e pointing directly at the sky. Don't add to the problem. Just my opinion.
This.
  #20  
Old 02-12-2020, 03:11 PM
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I'm amused that the home inspector mentioned this. How did he or she do in terms of actually inspecting the building and its systems?
I would guess he also inspected it and put it in the report. SOmetimes they fall over.
  #21  
Old 02-12-2020, 03:38 PM
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I'm amused that the home inspector mentioned this. How did he or she do in terms of actually inspecting the building and its systems?
He did a terrific job, finding several significant but correctable problems I doubt anyone else would have discovered. There was no mention of the flag "issue" in his report.

As I understand it, the U.S. code regarding the flag applies to everyone, private or public. But again, there's no federal retribution for violating flag etiquette.

We have for years had an unused Kentucky state flag sitting out on the garage. Now I get to fly it proudly.*

*if I remember correctly, it's a blue flag with images of a frontiersman greeting a slightly more modern Kentuckian, along with the slogans "Liberty", "Equality" and "Bourbon".
  #22  
Old 02-12-2020, 03:43 PM
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We already have too much outdoor lighting. And illumination for a flag is the worst kind for light pollution - i.e pointing directly at the sky. Don't add to the problem. Just my opinion.
Googling "downlighting for flag pole" results in a couple of options for lighting that would be above the flag and pointing down. Of course, this might require running a power line up the pole.
  #23  
Old 02-12-2020, 03:45 PM
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Just fly the original 13-star flag and tell people they didn't have electric flag lighting in the 18th century.
Which is exactly why flags were traditionally lowered before sunset and raised back up at sunrise. It wasn't okay to fly a flag in the dark back then, either.
  #24  
Old 02-12-2020, 03:50 PM
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Googling "downlighting for flag pole" results in a couple of options for lighting that would be above the flag and pointing down. Of course, this might require running a power line up the pole.
"Might"? Who are you, Tesla?
  #25  
Old 02-12-2020, 03:54 PM
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So long as people are displaying the flag by putting it on clothing, athletic gear and disposable packaging that they don't burn, all of which are also a no-no, I wouldn't worry about it too much. It's more of a guideline.
  #26  
Old 02-12-2020, 03:55 PM
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Googling "downlighting for flag pole" results in a couple of options for lighting that would be above the flag and pointing down. Of course, this might require running a power line up the pole.
"Might"? Who are you, Tesla?
No, one of the options I saw was solar-powered. (So the battery might not last all night.)
  #27  
Old 02-12-2020, 04:02 PM
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Which is exactly why flags were traditionally lowered before sunset and raised back up at sunrise. It wasn't okay to fly a flag in the dark back then, either.
Does this mean that Francis Scott Key was lying about the flag still being there? Or that British artillery was considered adequate lighting for flag etiquette?

Oh hey, another possible way for the OP to light his flag!
  #28  
Old 02-12-2020, 04:09 PM
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No, one of the options I saw was solar-powered. (So the battery might not last all night.)
Here is one such option. If you have a finial screwed in at the top of the flagpole, it can be used to secure some of these lighting options.
  #29  
Old 02-12-2020, 05:14 PM
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OP, what exactly did this inspector tell you? Did he say you MUST install lights? Did he threaten to write you up for some code violation? Or was he just making a casual remark?
  #30  
Old 02-12-2020, 05:28 PM
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Either illuminate it directly or take it down every evening. Anything else is rules lawyering and game playing. If the flag means anything to you, do it correctly. Otherwise take it down and fly something else.
  #31  
Old 02-12-2020, 05:39 PM
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Either illuminate it directly or take it down every evening. Anything else is rules lawyering and game playing. If the flag means anything to you, do it correctly. Otherwise take it down and fly something else.
You can care about the flag without caring about the flag code. Why should the U.S. government have a monopoly on defining the right way to fly a flag, anyway?
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Old 02-12-2020, 05:39 PM
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Does this mean that Francis Scott Key was lying about the flag still being there? Or that British artillery was considered adequate lighting for flag etiquette?

Oh hey, another possible way for the OP to light his flag!
A liar? That is probably not the best example for you to use, considering "dawn's early light" is in the very first line of the poem. The Star Spangled Banner was, in fact, raised at dawn just like I said.

However, there was a storm flag flying throughout the night and during the battle, so it is possible (likely) the tradition of not flying flags at night came later. I'll give you that.
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Old 02-12-2020, 06:09 PM
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And apparently there was an exception for Forts and ships when engaged in battle at night.
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When a permanent fort or a ship is engaged in battle at night, the flag is flown. (Moss, James ... The United States Flag Association, Washington, D. C. 1941)
  #34  
Old 02-12-2020, 06:36 PM
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I have a 25' flagpole with a solar powered light at the top. Multi LED and it points down at the flag.

I fly the flag 24/7. The lights do not last all night during the winter or inclement weather, but do during the summer.

Best I can do.
  #35  
Old 02-12-2020, 06:41 PM
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There are finials available with LED lights and solar panels. Just screw one to the top of the pole, and it will come on automatically when it gets dark. It will likely run out of juice before the night is out, but should be enough to satisfy even the most ardent flag worshiper.

Last edited by TruCelt; 02-12-2020 at 06:42 PM.
  #36  
Old 02-12-2020, 06:52 PM
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Wanted to mention that if the Feds can't prevent folks from walking upon or burning the flag, I think you're pretty well untouchable so far as illumination goes.

The type of light linked by TruCelt is what I use.

Last edited by GaryM; 02-12-2020 at 06:53 PM.
  #37  
Old 02-12-2020, 07:09 PM
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Just fly the original 13-star flag and tell people they didn't have electric flag lighting in the 18th century.
They didn't fly the flag all night in the 18th century either.

Just think how much flag-raising and lowering work was saved when the electric light was invented!
  #38  
Old 02-12-2020, 11:44 PM
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I picked “other advice” because I was going to suggest that you could illuminate it, but do something more moderate than the full-on spotlights. Seems others here had the same idea.

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Just fly the original 13-star flag and tell people they didn't have electric flag lighting in the 18th century.
I found this ridiculously funny. Lordy, I’m a hopeless vexillology nerd.
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Old 02-13-2020, 12:30 AM
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Since the OP is called "fun with flags", my instinct is just to replace it with various flags. The US flag is boring, and I would only use it for special occasions.

I'd probably put up the Hello Internet flag, for starters. And see if anyone around is a traitor and puts up "Flaggy Flag" instead.
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Old 02-13-2020, 12:37 AM
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Just fly an all white flag. If anyone asks tell them you gave up years ago.
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Old 02-13-2020, 12:47 AM
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I used to own a house that had a flag pole, and we usually had the US flag raised. When sunset arrived, we merely lowered the flag. It took about two minutes, and that included folding the flag. It takes longer to brush and floss. I loved raising the flag in the morning. I'm not sure what's so onerous about lowering it, but it's not against the law to leave it raised.
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Old 02-13-2020, 06:20 AM
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Which is exactly why flags were traditionally lowered before sunset and raised back up at sunrise. It wasn't okay to fly a flag in the dark back then, either.
It is and always has been ok.
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Old 02-13-2020, 07:04 AM
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It is and always has been ok.
Define: "okay". There are established customs that have been codified in the USA since at least 1949. And even then, these traditions had been informally practiced for at least decades earlier. Sure, people are free to do what they want. In that sense, it is okay. But that's like going to a formal dinner party in shorts and drinking your soup straight from the bowl. It's okay in the sense that it is legal. But in the sense that it goes against established customs and will likely be offensive to people who care about such formalities, it is not okay.
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Old 02-13-2020, 07:10 AM
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Use your power as buyer and have the current owners correct the situation before the sale. The sellers will most certainly cave on the request, as fighting it would look bad.
Or, they will just take down the flag pole.
  #45  
Old 02-13-2020, 07:38 AM
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Define: "okay". There are established customs that have been codified in the USA since at least 1949. And even then, these traditions had been informally practiced for at least decades earlier. Sure, people are free to do what they want. In that sense, it is okay. But that's like going to a formal dinner party in shorts and drinking your soup straight from the bowl. It's okay in the sense that it is legal. But in the sense that it goes against established customs and will likely be offensive to people who care about such formalities, it is not okay.
No healthy person is going to be offended by an unlit flag on someone else's private property.
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Old 02-13-2020, 07:56 AM
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Since the OP is called "fun with flags", my instinct is just to replace it with various flags. The US flag is boring, and I would only use it for special occasions...
A bunch of us scouts built a raft and spent nine days floating down the Mississippi. We flew The Ensign of the Sovereign Kingdom of Peco-Pie. I'd start a fun project where all the neighbors (and their kids of course) get to doodle flag ideas. Then a seamstress (neighbor or any tailor) can stitch it up using ripstop nylon.

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Originally Posted by nelliebly View Post
I used to own a house that had a flag pole, and we usually had the US flag raised. When sunset arrived, we merely lowered the flag. It took about two minutes, and that included folding the flag. It takes longer to brush and floss. I loved raising the flag in the morning. I'm not sure what's so onerous about lowering it, but it's not against the law to leave it raised.
That was my job at a summer camp. It was a nice ritual to start the day: coffee, newspaper and flag.

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No healthy person is going to be offended by an unlit flag on someone else's private property.
Good point.
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Old 02-13-2020, 08:15 AM
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If you want to be proper about it, the best option is to raise and lower it at dawn and dusk.

If you don't want to be proper about it, then ignore the Flag Code and do whatever you feel like.
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Old 02-13-2020, 08:22 AM
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No healthy person is going to be offended by an unlit flag on someone else's private property.
I'm done. This is pointless. Maybe offended is not the right word or maybe you just want to be argumentative. The fact is, when it comes to flying a US flag, it is more respectful to either take it down at night or to illuminate it rather than fly it in the dark.
If you don't care whatsoever about customs, courtesy, manners, or other arbitrary social constructs, then of course everything is okay. You can't have a meaningful discussion about what is and is not okay if you don't agree on the standard by which to judge the act.
This is like trying to argue about English writing without specifying a style guide.
Is it okay to use profanity around children? Is it okay to not say please and thank you? Is it okay to not send a thank you card or message after receiving a gift? Is it okay to chew loudly and slurp at the table? Are people offended by such things unhealthy? Or maybe do they just have different values than you?

According to US Flag Code and the decades of traditions and customes upon which those rules are based, it is not okay to fly a flag at night unless it is illuminated.

According to the code of "Whatever! I do what I want! It's my property and it's not hurting you", then it is okay.

FTR, I don't personally care what the OP or anyone else does with their flag poles. But, if a friend wanted to do it and they asked if it was "okay", I would say, "No." And explain why. What they do with that information and whether or not they decide to fly it in the dark anyway wouldn't bother me. I don't care what they choose to do with their flag.

I also dont care if you refuse to groom prior to a job interview. But if you asked if it was okay, I wouldn't say, "Yea, sure. Who cares."
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Old 02-13-2020, 08:23 AM
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When my parents had a house with a flagpole, they only put up a flag twice a year -- 14 June and 4 July -- and took it down at dusk.
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Old 02-13-2020, 08:37 AM
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I'm done. This is pointless. Maybe offended is not the right word or maybe you just want to be argumentative. The fact is, when it comes to flying a US flag, it is more respectful to either take it down at night or to illuminate it rather than fly it in the dark.
If you don't care whatsoever about customs, courtesy, manners, or other arbitrary social constructs, then of course everything is okay. You can't have a meaningful discussion about what is and is not okay if you don't agree on the standard by which to judge the act.
This is like trying to argue about English writing without specifying a style guide.
Is it okay to use profanity around children? Is it okay to not say please and thank you? Is it okay to not send a thank you card or message after receiving a gift? Is it okay to chew loudly and slurp at the table? Are people offended by such things unhealthy? Or maybe do they just have different values than you?

According to US Flag Code and the decades of traditions and customes upon which those rules are based, it is not okay to fly a flag at night unless it is illuminated.

According to the code of "Whatever! I do what I want! It's my property and it's not hurting you", then it is okay.

FTR, I don't personally care what the OP or anyone else does with their flag poles. But, if a friend wanted to do it and they asked if it was "okay", I would say, "No." And explain why. What they do with that information and whether or not they decide to fly it in the dark anyway wouldn't bother me. I don't care what they choose to do with their flag.

I also dont care if you refuse to groom prior to a job interview. But if you asked if it was okay, I wouldn't say, "Yea, sure. Who cares."
Your example in your prior post was about manners while attending someone else's dinner party. Which is a far cry from what they do at home. If someone gets offended by how other people do dinner at their own house, how they chew on their front porch, what they wear while mowing the lawn, the words they use at home, the style guide they adhere to at a publication you don't edit for . . . that's not healthy. Nor is getting worked up about someone else's flag at someone else's house. Light, dark, on fire, whatever. It's just a flag. Nobody is harmed. Nobody is disrespected.

Last edited by Ruken; 02-13-2020 at 08:38 AM.
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