Amidst the many beautiful Memorial Day tributes and memes that filled my Facebook feed over the last few days, there were more than a few posts expressing disappointment, even outrage over a controversial t-shirt design unveiled by Pac Sun over Memorial Day weekend.
The shirt features an upside down American flag.
A second highly recognizable symbol adorns one sleeve, the anarchy symbol.
Pac Sun pulled the items from their shelves following the uproar and issued this statement -.
As a retailer grounded in youth culture, PacSun values artistic and creative expression through the brands that we sell in our stores. Out of respect for those who have put their lives on the line for our country, we have decided to stop selling the licensed flag t-shirt and are removing it from our stores and website immediately. We thank the men and women in uniform for their extraordinary service.
There are calls to action across social media platforms encouraging a Pac Sun boycott. People, a lot of people, are offended and I get it, I do. I don’t usually weigh in on issues like this, someone is always offended by something, justifiably so or not – If I took the time to comment or write about my own views, opinions, and beliefs on it all, I would never leave the keyboard.
The reason I chose to address this one is because my initial reaction was to be offended to, but I didn’t really know just what an upside down flag was meant to represent. It bothered me, but I wanted to know why. I needed facts. Was this simply another way to get people hackles raised? Was the flag being desecrated? Were people who would wear this t-shirt treasonous-America-hating-anti-patriots? What was the message the designers were trying to send?
With these questions in mind, I Googled the The United States Flag Code to find answers.
§176. Respect for flag (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.
The displaying of the flag, union down, does indeed have a meaning, one that is recognized by the U.S. Armed Forces as an SOS signal in certain circumstances. Dire circumstances to be precise.
- (of a situation or event) extremely serious or urgent.
I doubt the designers of this particular piece of apparel are facing dire circumstances, at least they weren’t until they unveiled their latest product. More likely, they were trying to send some ideological political statement, an inverted flag along with the anarchy symbol certainly suggests as much. Their particular brand of protest is not sitting well with many Americans though. Most view it as a sign of disrespect and are expressing their ire without constraint.
To those who cherish and honor the symbol of our country, this is a violation, not symbolic of a nation in distress as some are calling it. We are seeing Americans turning their backs on their own country, and some may see the wearing of an inverted flag as just that, an attack rather than a criticism of the country they love.
Like many, I see problems, big problems with our government and I sometimes wonder what will happen next, but we are citizens of The United States of America, we are supposed to be one nation, undivided and yet, there is division and it is fracturing us. Imagery and symbols can be powerful things, as powerful as words and actions sometimes. We have to be careful how we choose to use them.
Thousands of men and women have fought and too many have given their lives under the banner of those stars and stripes. Disrespecting the flag that flies in representation of all they have sacrificed dishonors not only them, but anyone who has hope for our future.
Crystal R. Cook