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Editorials

Editor’s note: Today’s editorials originally appeared in The Wenatchee World. Editorial content from other publications is provided to give readers a sampling of regional and national opinion and does not necessarily reflect positions endorsed by the Editorial Board of The Daily News.

It's Fourth of July week. But you knew that already. How could you forget, when every grocery store and mall shop in town drips with red, white and blue displays?

In the retail advertisements inserted into yesterday's Wenatchee World, I counted 23 products with American flags splashed across them, plus another dozen products with an overall flag-motif. American flag T-shirts, swim trunks, short-shorts, flip flops, a "Stars and Stripes Bag Toss" game and plastic drink tumblers — all for sale and marked down this Independence Day.

At Macy's you can buy a Minions American flag shirt, an athletic shirt upon which the word "Adidas" is printed in place of the stars, and another shirt on which the stripes are made from red Solo cups and the stars are white ping pong balls. Because nothing says America like beer pong, I guess.

But don't just wear the flag. Eat it! We ran a recipe for American Flag Cheesecake Bars. (The stars are blueberries. The stripes are raspberry jam. The graham cracker crust tastes like freedom.)

The cheesecake bars don't bother me. The rampant commercial appropriation of our national emblem does, and that makes me feel like a scold, surrounded by people who just shake their heads at my hoity-toity adherence to long forgotten social codes. It's the same way I feel when I look around a crowded airplane and realize that sweatpants are the new slacks. (We're all just OK with this now, right?) No one else seems to mind when corporations wrap their packaging, products and images in the stars and stripes, so why does it bother me?

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My Boy Scout father and World War II veteran grandfather taught me to respect the flag, and that wearing the flag was disrespectful. They taught me there is such a thing as the Flag Code, federal guidelines for displaying and caring for the flag. That code states: "The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. ...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. ...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."

But the flag code is not enforced. No one goes to jail for wearing an Old Navy flag shirt. From a Congressional Research Service report: "While wearing the colors may be in poor taste and offensive to many, it is important to remember that the Flag Code is intended as a guide to be followed on a purely voluntary basis to insure proper respect for the flag."

It doesn't matter what I think about your flag shirt. The First Amendment to the Constitution towers above the stuffy old Flag Code any day of the week, and our free speech allows us to desecrate a flag, burn it in protest, or wear it to the beach.

The late, great Molly Ivins once wrote, "I prefer someone who burns the flag and then wraps themselves up in the Constitution over someone who burns the Constitution and then wraps themselves up in the flag."

Absolutely. So while I think American flag flip flops are tasteless (you are literally walking on the American flag), I am grateful to live in a country where everyone has the right to make our own fashion mistakes, even tragically tacky, star-spangled mistakes.

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