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Ethnography Of The American Flag Essay

1003 words - 5 pages

In America there is a religious totem held above all else. It is a piece of square cloth with thirteen red and white lines and 50 stars that they place on a pole over their heads. They honor their flag in almost every aspect of their lives. They are placed at national shrines, cathedrals, outside homes and inside of every classroom. Every the morning in schools all across the nation children are required to pray to the flag and pledge their loyalty. In it is raised every morning outside the school and then taken down at the end of the day. A smaller version also hangs in most classrooms for the children to gaze at with pride. Before undertaking in major event the Americans stop and serenade ...view middle of the document...

This continues until all the pieces are in the incinerator and the fire is lit. While the participants of the ceremony watch the flag burn the ceremony leader says
“Nothing is really ended until it is forgotten. Our Flag, the symbol of freedom for over 216, 000,000 citizens of our great land, and the banner under which countless millions have given their last measure of devotion in wars to protect our freedom, will never be forgotten. It is for us the living, in strength and unity, to love and respect our Flag. As we remember our Flag, we know that it represents the living country and it is a precious possession” (Flag Etiquette).
The leader then commences to lead the audience in the pledge of allegiance and pray to God to keep our nation safe. The national anthem is then played and the ritual is completed (Flag Etiquette).
During the ceremony the power is extremely hierarchical and resembles Mauss’ sacrifice circle with the flag in the center followed by the ceremony leader in the next circle then the thirteen helpers in the next circle and all the observers in the last circle. Even though this ritual is extremely sacred there is no ordered structure of who exactly can perform the ritual. In the United States Flag every citizen has the right to honor and retire their own flag; the U.S. flag code “does not authorize any particular organization with the duty of retiring unfit flags. Any one person or group can do it.” But while it is legal for anyone to retire the flag it is usually done through a military organization or boy/girl scouts of America. The only stipulation on the burning of the flag ceremony is that it must take place in a private, non-public location to ensure that it is a solemn, honorable event (Annin).
This ritual is wrought with cultural meaning because America honors its flag above all else and when it...

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