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    A Times Editorial

    Showing our pride without shabbiness

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published April 13, 2003

    It's nice to see a resurgence of patriotism among local residents in the last couple of weeks. Though opinions about the wisdom of going to war with Iraq were divided, most people seem able to support the troops and feel pride in a nation that could, in just a few weeks' time, liberate another from the decades-long grip of a cruel tyrant.

    A week ago as many as 20,000 people from all over the Tampa Bay area came together in Clearwater's Coachman Park for a rally to support the troops. Similar rallies have been held around the country, but Clearwater's attracted a bigger crowd than nearly all of them.

    Cars on area streets are starting to sport American flags again or new patriotic bumper stickers. Flags wave in front of homes and businesses, and patriotic clothing is on display near the front of retail stores again.

    Here and there, people are tying yellow ribbons around the trees in their yards or their mailboxes, even though there has not been an organized yellow-ribbon campaign in North Pinellas. The ribbons are placed in remembrance of the troops, not to be removed until the last soldier comes home.

    These are mere symbols, but they help people on the home front feel they are contributing, give them a way to show their pride, and serve as valuable visible reminders of the sacrifices being made by the troops.

    But if waving the flag is a way to show our pride in America, shouldn't we have enough pride not to display if it is dirty, faded or torn?

    Some of the flags waving in North Pinellas are an embarrassment. Flags in front of businesses are in especially poor condition. Some are so thin and weather-worn that they are virtually transparent. The red stripes and blue field are washed out in others, faded away by the sun. And some flags are flapping in shreds.

    If you are flying a flag at your home, business or school, check it out and replace it if it has become shabby. Flags can be purchased in local stores or over the internet, and they aren't particularly expensive.

    The U.S. Flag Code prescribes the lawful method for disposing of a worn flag. It states, "The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning." Some organizations perform ritualized flag retirement ceremonies, which are interesting to watch.

    One such local ceremony is scheduled for noon on June 14 at the nature preserve on Gulf Boulevard in Indian Rocks Beach, and flags to be destroyed can be left at Indian Rocks City Hall or the VFW Post at 14268 Walsingham Road in Largo.

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