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OPINION | GREG HARTON: Swimsuit with flag? No thanks

by Greg Harton | July 4, 2021 at 1:00 a.m.

My sons and I were headed to Lake Ouachita, near Hot Springs, for some boating, swimming and tent camping. Summer trips to the Brady Mountain campground were a staple of my childhood. Returning there for me is like visiting a longtime friend.

One of my boys, though, didn't have a swimsuit, and what I had weren't in great shape. It was mid-summer, but as far as stocking swimsuits goes, it was a bit late in the season. At a small-town Walmart, selection was nonexistent. They had one style that would fit me: swimsuits made to look like the U.S. flag.

That, for me, was a nonstarter. Using our nation's flag as a piece of clothing is pretty common these days, but it's not for me. Red, white and blue? Sure, but an actual representation of the Stars and Stripes? Aren't there enough fashion options without the need to turn the U.S. flag into just another piece of clothing?

My attitude about the flag probably seems prudish. I'm OK with that. Soldiers have carried that flag into battle. I'm not ready to be cavalier about it.

I saw a photo the other day of two shirtless guys at car race in matching flag overalls -- stripes, field of blue, white stars. They no doubt considered it patriotic. I don't think it pays respect to our national symbol.

Third District U.S. Rep. Steve Womack the other day introduced the Flag Code Modernization Act of 2021 "to reflect the special traditions and practices that have become commonplace." As of Friday, the text of the bill was not available at Based on Womack's press release, the bill, among other things, would liberalize use of the flag's image by nonprofit groups and private businesses and end often-ignored prohibitions on putting the flag on temporary items such as napkins, cushions or boxes.

It's supported by the American Legion. It surprises me I apparently fall a bit on the more conservative side of the American Legion on this. People wiping their mouths on a U.S. flag napkin ought not be a crime, but I don't care much for encouraging it, either. The decades-old code has generally discouraged use of the U.S. flag on items that will, by their very purpose, be wadded up and thrown into the trash. Again, red, white and blue napkins are adequate for festivities, so why should the nation encourage the actual image of the flag on such products?

There are a few deeply meaningful symbols that should not be co-opted for alternative purposes. As much as I respect law enforcement officers, I don't care for those flags that modify the U.S. flag with a thin blue line in place of one of the white stripes.

Established religious emblems ought to be treated with deep respect, too. Mount Sequoyah Center in Fayetteville allowed its Christian cross overlooking the city to be digitally converted into rainbow colors representing LGBTQ+ Pride activities. The cross is a powerful symbol of faith, not unlike the Star of David's representation of Judaism or the crescent and star of Islam. Co-opting them for other purposes -- whether it's blue for law enforcement or pink for breast cancer awareness or red, white and blue to celebrate America -- seems unnecessarily sacrilegious, just as it does for businesses to make use of such symbols in promotional efforts to attract customers.

Whether such acts offend probably depends on how much reverence one has for the symbol and the meaning behind it. Without such deference, I suppose all these symbols are just shapes to be tweaked to one's personal message. I'm just suggesting they shouldn't be.


By the way, the North Carolina State Wolfpack have appeared in three College World Series. I misstated the team's number of trips in my column last week.

Print Headline: Swimsuit with flag? No, thanks


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