Patriotic Flag-Burning

Also: This Independence Day, Drink Like George Washington

By Buck Wolf

July 3, 2001 — If you're a red-blooded patriotic American, you'll retire your worn-out flag properly this Fourth of July — and burn it.

With the national argument over flag-burning still smoldering, the National Flag Foundation is reminding folks that flags soiled or ragged beyond repair should be respectfully incinerated.

"Some folks think you should bury the Stars and Stripes — that is just plain wrong," says David White, the group's executive director. "Congress laid down guidelines of how to dispose of a flag, and a conscientious American should follow the rules."

According to the Flag Code, enacted by Congress in 1942, "when a flag has served its useful purpose, it should be destroyed, preferably by burning."

You begin a flag funeral with the Pledge of Allegiance and the patriotic songs of your choice. Ignite the red and white stripes first, and then the blue field of stars. The Veterans of Foreign Wars or even a local Boy Scout troop will do this for you, free of charge, if you don't want to do it yourself.

White says that the idea for burning the flag dates back at least as far as ancient Rome, when a general's remains were laid upon a funeral pyre.

When Doing the Laundry Becomes a Banner Day

Before you give up your old Old Glory, White says you may want to try washing it by hand or sending it to a dry cleaner. Today's flags are largely made of polyester or nylon, which means they're a lot easier to launder than the cotton, woolen and linen banners of yesteryear.

"Some dry cleaners will even do it for their steady customers for free," White says.

Unfortunately, even modern flags don't come with cleaning directions. But take it from a pro, don't put the Stars and Stripes in the dryer. "Just hang it on a clothesline to drip-dry," White says.

Just remember, no matter how often you wash your flag, America will never be washed up.

Martha Washington's Rum Punch

Do you need a reason to drink on the Fourth of July? Well, many of our forefathers — including George Washington — were brewers and distillers.