Flagging Interest

From: Principal Stern
To: All S. Gompers Middle School Faculty and Staff
Re: Flag Protocol

Good morning, fellow Gomperians. Just a quick memo to update you on the rules and guidelines that govern the presentation of the flags on the flagpole in the front of the building.

Several members of the community—parents as well as staffers—asked me last week why the large flag of the United States was flying at half-staff. Most assumed it was because someone of national importance had passed away, while some thought our school family had suffered a casualty, but in any case no one knew who had died. (I even overheard one eighth-grader positing to another that Samuel Gompers himself had perished, making me think we should be doing a better job of educating our students about American labor history, even if the subject is not a priority on standardized tests.)

I apologized—and I apologize now again—for the confusion. No one died. In fact, the flag was flown not quite at half-staff but at 7/16-staff (that is, just below the midway point on the pole) to represent the losing record of my favorite professional football team during the regular season, which ended the previous Sunday, and my consequent disappointment. I realize now that this was something of an abuse of power on my part, as principal, and I promise that I won’t ask our custodial staff to lower the flag of our country again because a sports team has let me down, however gravely.

This incident, however, prompted me to review the rules of flag protocol. As it turns out, there are a number of flag conventions of which I was unaware, so I figure I might as well share what I learned, so that we all might avoid any possible awkwardnesses and/or violations of federal law in the future.

Finally, all of this thinking about flags got me thinking about procuring a brand new American flag to display proudly on the school grounds, but what I discovered when I went online to buy one is that we’ve apparently been flying an older version of the official flag of our nation for some time. Evidently there have been a number of upgrades over the years. So we’ll be getting the newest flag soon, and we might even raise some funds for the district by selling the old flag, which I listed on eBay. Bids are already past half a million dollars, and I also got a call from someone at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. asking, “Where the hell did you get the first flag of the United States?” If anyone knows where we got the flag we’ve been flying for at least as long as I’ve been principal here, please come speak to me.

And now, if you’ll all stand for the Pledge of Allegiance....

Matthew David Brozik wrote this and many other short humor pieces, which have been published in print and online by The New Yorker, Adult Swim, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Grin & Tonic, The Big Jewel, and no one.

Read more humor here. Or read some fiction here.