Flag at half mast used to mean something

When I was a child if I saw a flag at half mast my first question was, “which ex president died?”

Now I just wonder who’s cat has the sniffles.

I suspect it’s some tribute to the soldiers losing their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq, but when did this great honor get watered down so much?

It’s for the last American WWI veteran, who passed away recently.


And I take offense at your comparing soldiers dying in Afghanistan and Iraq to cat sniffles.

Thank you for that link, Oakminster! I often wonder why the flag is at half mast; now I will be able to find out.

Also, you may not have meant it as offensively as it came out, but that was an unfortunate comparison, Sitnam. I think an apology might be in order…

I once worked for a guy who’s best friend died; he lowered our flag to half-mast. Our facility was in an industrial park and the switchboard operator told me she was swamped with “who died” calls. I agree (not only because of that instance) that the symbolism has greatly diminished. In fact, I thought it was against “the law.”

The flag code is not law. Legally, you can display your own flag any way you want.

The president and governors can order federal and state facilities, respectively, to fly half-staff, but other institutions, businesses and private persons, can follow these directions, or not, or choose their own occasions, as they like. A great many fire stations flew half-staff on June 22, 2007, for example, and I found it entirely appropriate and moving.

Did you also tie an onion to your belt?

Oh, thank you! I’ve noticed flags at half-staff twice today and meant to google it when I got home and then forgot, so that is helpful.

When I see a flag at half staff and don’t know why, I assume that I’m ignorant of why, not that it’s too minor for me to know why.

Wrong. I had to explain this to Dio a few months ago. The flag code is most definitely law. You won’t go to jail for it, but will generally be considered an uncouth person for willful violations.

My flag is at half mast only if I’m drunk and can’t get it up.

Thanks for the link, Oakminster. I was just about to go find out why flags were flying at half staff downtown today.

Nitpitck: Masts are on ships. On land, a flag flies from a staff, whether half or not.

Does the law state that I will be declared an uncouth person? Somehow I doubt it. My personal opinion is that the flag code is a First Amendment violation. I suspect that if the Supreme Court ever got hold of the topic though they would either find that (1) A law with no mechanism for enforcement or consequences is not really much of anything, or (2) it’s like that ceremonial deism claptrap.

I periodically get annoyed at this, too. I call it the watering down of superlatives - like everyone getting a standing ovation no matter what they’ve done, or every woman who sings being called a diva.

Then there’s the supermarket down the street that always flies the flag at 3/4 staff. Am I missing something here? Are there staffs that don’t go to the top?

I think the last WWI veteran in the U.S. deserves to be mourned in this way – I don’t feel there’s anything wrong with lowering the flag to half-staff.
acsenray correct: the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it a First Amendment violation to do so. So yeah, it’s a law as in it’s on the books, but they can’t enforce it.

Besides, if the examples on that page are “uncouth”, well, then so are 95% of the population*.
(As for tattered flags – what about ones that are of historical significance? My aunt and uncle have one that his father removed from a ship during WWII. It’s in very poor condition, but they still have it stored, because of the history behind it)

*The old guy in the flag clothes was just sad. The guy in the flag speedo was scary.

Double nitpick.
Flags are flown on the mast of ships when under way. In port they are flown off the staff. On land they can fly from staffs or yard arms.

Okay–it is defined in law, but it is not binding on civilians and carries no legal penalties, which puts it outside the common understanding of the term.

Triple nitpick: Musicat doesn’t drink.

I wish they had a Canadian version of that site, I never know why flags are flown at half staff (petty, possibly wrong, nit: masts are for ships!) around here unless it’s high profile - and I’m a vexillologist! The local legion halls (Canadian equivalent of VFWs) seem to have their flags at half-staff something like 80% of the time! My initial thought was to commemorate the death of a member (our veterans aren’t getting younger, you know!) but there can’t be that many of them!

I always thought diva = singer + bitch. So Mariah Carey and Celine Dion are divas, Dolly Parton, never a diva, always a “singer”.


This is just sophistry. If it’s not binding, it’s not the law. The flag code is not enforcable law (outside the military or other federal jurisdictions), nor could it be. If it carried any penalties it would violate the First Amendment.

I’ll be considered “uncouth” by who? Officious pedants who have nothing better to do than obsess about what other people do with their own cloth?