Do flag napkins/towels etc. upset patriots?

On Memorial Day my mother put out napkins with the design of the US flag on them. I’ve also seen people using towels with the flag design. This makes me curious since some people get so defensive about the flag in other cases (the protocol about flying one, and the flag burning controversy, for examples.) Does using the flag design to dry one’s butt or to wipe the baked beans sauce off one’s cheeks enrage those people too?

(I don’t think theres a factual answer to this so I’m posting it in IMHO.)

I’m not too crazy about the idea.

If the makers of napkins, towels, sandals, etc would simply use generic stars and stripes instead of the Stars and Stripes, it’s OK.

Let’s see, we live in a country where the Supreme Court has upheld the right to burn the flag as a form of political protest and you’re worried about… napkins?

Let’s distinguish between the actual flag and an image of the flag. Pulling an actual flag down off a flag pole and using it as a napkin or bath towel is definitely uncool, and very rude at best.

However, napkins and even, yes, towels with images of waving flags and so forth are a slightly different matter. I mean, they aren’t flags and easily distinguished from them.

Certainly, at a Memorial Day or Fourth of July picnic they would seem to blend in with the spirit of the day and are no more offensive than, say, eating a cake with flag decorations or icing that replicates the stars and stripes.

Now, if someone is using bath towels on a regular basis that could double as a flag if run up a pole… well, that’s a little strange. Yep, would probably offend many.

So… I’d say context and the distance between decoration and actual flag are significant factors to consider.

I’m a patriot and it doesn’ bother me.

I agree (again) with Broomstick, who is obviously therefore of very high intelligence.

IIRC, there was a time when it was considered poor form to have a flag sewn on one’s clothing – the image of the flag was not supposed to be used as mere decoration. I believe during WWII (or was it WWI?) some kind and generous Brits were prepared to give GIs some article of clothing with a flag sewn on it. They were told this was not good form, and they removed the potentially offending item.

Then, of course, in the '60s there were hippies that made shirts and the like with flags on them as some sort of display of anti-patriotism; this was considered Very Bad by their elders. But now, it’s apparently become fine and dandy to wear shirts, socks, bathing suits, (and underwear for all I know) with the American flag printed or sewn on. Go figure.

A while back, somebody wanted to make it a special crime to burn an American flag, and it was pointed out that respectful burning was done routinely as the proper way to dispose of a damaged flag. So it got into being a matter of what was in the mind of the person doing the burning. The same question about flag pictures in books, magazines, napkins, etc. was raised – if “flag burning” were illegal, did that mean if Parade magazine put a flag picture on the cover you were obligated to keep it forever???

I am quite pro-American, but sometimes people get too tied up in symbols and forget the principle that the object is a symbol of.

Here are just two items from the list of what not to do with the flag from the Federal Flag Code (officially Public Law 94-344)

Do Not:
-use it as wearing apparel, bedding or drapery. It should not be used on a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be attached to the uniform of patriotic organizations, military personnel, police officers and firefighters.

use the flag for advertising or promotion purposes or print it on paper napkins, boxes or anything else intended for temporary use and discard.

I’m a flag waver. While I’m aware of these “rules” I also recognize them as unenforceable. And to be honest, none of these sorts of things upsets my sense of patriotism nearly as much as a flag left flying at night without illumination, or my chief flag pet peeve- a flag that’s faded to pink and powder blue an tattered hanging sadly above a business.

Drat. Meant to hit preview! I hope it is obvious that the paragraph about advertising and promotion is from the list of things not ot do.

The other thing that I wanted to add is that while some things make me cringe - a flag printed across the backside of sweat pants, for example, most of the things that people do with the flag are to show pride, and even if I wouldn’t choose the same method I certainly cannot fault anyone for that.

It is starting to. I am tired of seeing the flag plastered on every damn thing.

A flag-burning (the disrespectful kind, not the legal disposal kind) amendment to the U.S. Constitution is in the works:

Why the amendment is a good idea

The opposite point of view

The Louisville Flag Committee tells us why we must prohibit free speech in order to save it.

Disrespect is like obscenity - I’ll know it when I see it.

I love lighters, cell phone covers etc., with a nice waving flag design. Our flag and what it stands for are just so beautiful that I can’t resist them. And that can’t be wrong.

clothes - sometimes ok
towels and napkins… eh.

But ultimately it depends on one’s intentions. Even burning the flag can be viewed as a celebration of the fact that we are able to do so. I have a couple of old flags I am saving in case it ever seems appropriate.

Napkins, towels, and so on do not “have the flag on them”. They have a stars and stripes motif. Or they might have a pattern of very small flags. But manufacturers know about the flag code, so anything goes as long as it’s not rectangular with the full thirteen stripes and fifty stars on blue in the corner. (I think you can show the whole flag, but if so, it would only be a small icon, not the entire pattern.)

For instance. I have a stars-and-stripes bikini. The left cup has white stars on blue; the right has red and white stripes. The briefs have stripes on the left front and right rear quadrants, and stripes on the right front and left rear. That’s in accordance with the flag code. If, on the other hand, each cup and the briefs were composed of the flag in its entirety, I could properly be arrested.

Why do I have the feeling that the reply count on this thread is going to go waayyyyyyy up?


You skipped over the Bicentennial. Starting in late '75, the market exploded in red, white and blue. (And I believe there was a second wave in 1986, for the Statue of Liberty centennial, but I could be wrong.) I still wouldn’t say that just having a bunch of RWB stuff makes you patriotic, but after 1976, display of S&S-related items was no longer regarded as unpatriotic.

While I consider myself a patriot I’m probably not the kind you’re after. It’s our flag. It belongs to us, not the other way around and if anyone wants to do anything with it then they can. As long as they’re willing to deal with the people who get angry with what they did.

Same with the constitution. If you want to wear constitution underwear, be my guest.