One of my childhood rituals was putting up the flag with my dad on holidays like the fourth of July. But by the time I got to college, I was so jaded about the flag that I equated displaying it with jingoism. In short, I saw flag-waving Americans as examples of patriotism and group-think run horribly amuck.
By my sophomore year, Newt and his cronies were pushing an amendment to ban flag burning and I was pretty torqued about it. Then, on the fourth of July, my roommates and I saw a jerk using the flag as bunting on his pickup truck. I complained bitterly about it as we drove to a potluck. The next day, I was downstairs hanging out with Diana L. and my roommates took red, white, and blue streamers and decorated my room, even slapping a bowtie on Bono on one of my U2 posters.
Flash forward to 9/11 ... at that point, the flag became a symbol of national unity in the face of terrorists who hate the democratic values our flag represents. I got a grapefruit-sized lump in my throat and completely broke down as I drove past a neighborhood bar and saw a flag 100 feet wide by 60 feet tall on the side of a building the day after the attack. But that changed when we invaded Iraq. The flag was back to being a symbol for flag-waving jingoists, marching in lockstep with a misguided madman's personal vendetta falsely portrayed as a war to unseat a madman with WMDs.
Anyhow, I've never burned a flag, but I respect the rights of those who would choose to do so as a form of (constitutionally protected) free speech. And I get my knickers in a furious twist when I see this kind of hypocrisy. (That's our fearless leader signing flags at a rally in Michigan. )
By the way, United States Code Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 8: Respect for the Flag says the following:
No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America; the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing. Regimental colors, State flags, and organization or institutional flags are to be dipped as a mark of honor.
(a) The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.
(b) The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.
(c) The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.
(d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white, and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker’s desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in general.
(e) The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way.
(f) The flag should never be used as a covering for a ceiling.
(g) The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.
(h) The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.
(i) The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.
(j) No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.
(k) The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.