Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lack of Respect for the Hawaiian Flag

No matter where you live or grew-up in Hawaii, whether you are rich or poor and no matter your educational background, the flag of Hawaii unifies us all as residents of the fiftieth State of the Union. This flag has flown over a Kingdom, then a republic, then a territory and now a State. It has remained virtually constant with few changes made since it was first adopted. While some have come forward in attempts to either introduce a "new" flag of their own creation or have tried to pass-off a flag as being the "true original" flag of Hawaii, the flag with eight stripes and the Union Jack in the canton remains as an almost universally-recognize symbol of Hawaii and its people.


However, despite all the groups and individuals who claim to be for instilling pride in the Hawaiian people, as well as the various t-shirts, bumperstickers, songs and even tattoos proclaiming an individual's pride in either being from Hawaii or being Hawaiian, our flag has repeatedly been a victim of unpardonable laxity and negligence on the part of those parties who display our flag around Hawaii.


As I was riding home from the airport after having picked-up my new cellphone from UPS, I rode past the Aloha Tower Marketplace. As I was coming out from the parking lot area, attempting to get back onto Ala Moana Blvd, I looked up and saw this:
You can't really see it in the picture, but the Hawaii flag on the right has a torn fly (the part of the flag opposite from the flagpole and flaps-around in the wind) where almost the entire fly seam has torn loose and flaps loosely, almost totally disconnected from the main body of the flag. Here's another picture I took:
You can see it much better in this picture. The flag on the right in the first picture is now the flag on the left. I also noticed that the flag on the right of this picture has its fly in a partially shredded condition, as if the entire seam had come apart and the flag was disintegrating from the fly to the hoist (the part of the flag closest to the flagpole) and also shows some signs of the colors fading after having been exposed to the sun and rain for an extended period of time. Fading colors are normal with flags which contain bright colors, like red or blue. If a flag gets dirty, you are allowed to wash it and display it and if the seams come loose without the cloth tearing, you can mend it and it's no problem raising it again. However, when the cloth is torn or the colors fade, it is a violation of relevant flag codes to display such a flag in public. There are exceptions for famous flags, such as the US flag that flew over Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. But, ordinary flags must be flown in accordance with flag codes and doing otherwise is illegal and considered disrespectful of the flag and what it represents.


Since the US flag didn't seem to be in a similar state as the others, I'm guessing that it may be a newer flag, as it does not appear to have been torn and its colors are still bright.


I immediately placed a call to the concierge desk at Aloha Tower Marketplace and informed them as to the condition of both Hawaii flags. The person who answered seemed very surprised and told me that he would immediately tell his supervisor. Satisfied with this, I made my way home.

If a flag of any sort is embossed on a pin, I'll wear it. But, I have a serious problem wearing flags on shirts, hats or any sort of clothing. The difference is that clothes are more easily damaged and soiled than a pin might be and I'd feel that I was somehow dishonoring the flag by wearing it in that way. The same goes for using flags for the purposes of advertising a product. I feel that the advertisers are taking something that belongs to all of us and trying to co-opt it for their own designs. A flag, at its most basic, is just a colored piece of cloth. However, what it symbolizes is something so profound that to use it for personal gain is something I cannot tolerate and will not e a part of. I'm not for passing anti-desecration laws to protect flags, as that would be a First Amendment violation. But, if you burn a Hawaii or US flag and get your ass beaten, don't ask me to save you.



Sadly, this is not the first time I have seen either a Hawaii or US flag being flown in a damaged condition. Sometimes, a place of business or even a government building will have workers either ignorant or uncaring hoisting the flags in the morning and lowering them at close of business, knowing that the flags should not be flown, but doing it anyway. But, whenever I call to notify the administrative offices, they always act very surprised, as if the people in-charge don't look at the flags they display in front of their buildings everyday and it takes some random stranger to do it for them.


Some years ago, a well-known self-storage company on Queen Street used to fly a gigantic US flag on top of their building everyday, along with lots of smaller ones all around the perimeter of their roof. The giant flag fell into a state of total disrepair, with larges strips of it peeling-off and this drew an enormous amount of complaints from passersby and especially veterans organizations. The company removed the flag and had to fly a much smaller one until a similar sized flag could be purchased. Flags get more expensive as they get larger, so it must have set them back quite a bit. Unfortunately, they never quite got back their public image after that. Many people believe - as I do - that you shouldn't fly a flag that you can't take care of.


So, this is just the latest episode for me in finding a flag that is being flown, even though it shouldn't. I wish I could say that this was a unique occurrence, but it wasn't and I am sure I will see this sort of thing happening again.




Duane D. Browning
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