THE BEST way to display the flag of the United States is on the front of one's limousine, with siren-flashing automobiles containing police and other security escorts placed just to the front and the rear of one's car. This shows that not only do you respect your country, but that the feeling is mutual.
However, there are also ways in which the ordinary citizen can use the flag to display his love for his country or his contempt for its other citizens.
Flag etiquette is extremely complex, and the first rule is to avoid intentional offenses in the use of the flag that could lead to war or other unpleasant reactions.
For example, it is correct to burn a flag that has become tattered beyond repair, but it is wise to chose the circumstances of this ritual carefully - and to know in advance the political positions of any chance witnesses.
Although it is widely believed that the flag may not be flown after sunset, this is not strictly true. Like its citizens, the flag can flap about freely during daylight but should stick to well-lighted areas if venturing out at night.
Emotions about the flag should not be flown higher than the flag itself. For example, people who feel that a flag that has touched the ground must be discarded, or that there is a question about whether a flag may be washed or dry-cleaned (it depends on the material - to shrink the flag is an unfortunate sign, especially for the person in charge of the laundry), are violating what the flag stands for. It stands for, among other things, good old American common sense.
Nor is it respectful to use the flag to imply that others are less fully American than one is, oneself. Miss Manners does not approve of using the United States flag as personal adornment, whether in the lapel or the seat of the pants, if the intention is to provoke an attack from one's fellow citizens. It is one thing to fight for the flag, and quite another to use it in order to start a fight. Miss Manners Responds
Q: Is it necessary to dress to go out on the porch in the morning and pick up the paper?
A: It depends on what you mean by dress. Hat and gloves are no longer considered necessary for such an excursion, but it is customary to be covered in such a way as to be able to pick up the newspaper without oneself making news in the neighborhood.
Q: Look at the way the model is sitting in this department store advertisement, with her knees apart and her feet going every which way. I find many of these pictures offensive and have written to the stores about it, but they never seem to care enough to do anything about it.
A: Miss Manners was deeply offended by this advertisement when she noticed that it asks $230 for a daytime dress that looks like a bathrobe. Mentioning this to the stores never seems to make them do anything about it. As for the model, Miss Manners has enough trouble making real people behave.
Q: I find the custom of men always walking on the outside when accompanying women silly, as they have to keep switching sides. Don't you think the European custom of having women always walk on a man's right is more sensible?
A: Yes, but the American one, which has the man and the women constantly bumping into each other, is more fun.
Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white letter paper) to Miss Manners, The Washington Post.