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Photo of Baby in American Flag Sparks Controversy

Photo of Baby in American Flag Sparks Controversy

What’s the problem?

If you haven’t been reading College Insurrection lately, you may not know that students at UC Irvine recently voted to ban the American flag in their campus center. Their plan was ultimately vetoed and the students who were responsible have since apologized.

Considering all of that, this story is absolutely baffling.

Allahpundit of Hot Air reports:

Time for a huge food fight over whether this photo is disrespectful to the flag

When I saw the photo, I assumed the “controversy” was between conservatives who found it touching and anti-war liberals/libertarians who found it ominously nationalistic. (“It’s a metaphor for how we’re indoctrinated to equate patriotism with militarism!”) In other words, I thought it was a star-spangled version of The Dress. But those aren’t the sides here. The sides are people who find the photo touching and people who find it disrespectful to the flag insofar as it displays Old Glory in violation of the Flag Code (subsections 176(c) and (h), to be precise). If you believe the photographer, she’s gotten messages telling her she should kill herself over this.

She’s a Navy veteran, by the way. Her husband is active-duty Navy, as is the baby’s father. The baby’s mother? An Army veteran.

Here’s a video report from ABC News:

Zach Noble of The Blaze has more:

When Someone Called This Photo ‘Disgusting,’ the Photographer Decided to Fight Back. She Never Expected the Debate to Explode the Way It Did.

The Internet has erupted in a debate over the American flag, the U.S. military and respect.

At the center of the dispute: a photo shoot of a U.S. Navy serviceman holding his child in an American flag.

The photos were taken by Virginia photographer Vanessa Hicks, who posted them on Facebook on Sunday.

The next day, the Facebook page “You Call Yourself A Photographer” picked up the photos — and tore them apart.

“The flag is not a prop,” wrote the unnamed person behind the page, which focuses on highlighting bad photography from around the Internet. “To use the American flag in such a way is disrespectful, rude, tacky, disgusting, and against the U.S. Flag Code.”

I don’t understand why the image is controversial.

If you love America and its flag, you should turn your concern to America’s college campuses where the symbol of our freedom is considered by some to be a sign of oppression and colonialism.

Surely, that’s a bigger issue.

Featured image via YouTube.


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This beautiful picture touched my heart. Thank the mom and dad for their service to our country.

I R A Darth Aggie | March 13, 2015 at 9:00 am

It is an interesting composition. It’s still disrespectful of the flag.

But much like the stories of a homeowners association telling a vet that s/he can’t have a flag pole that violates the HOA rules, I’m not going to get to worked up over it.

Perhaps we would have been better served is John Philip Sousa had quoted the Civil War vet verbatim: she’s a grand ol’ rag.

But let me give you a palate cleanser.

As an artistic look, I get it, great, but as a matter of how you treat the flag, sorry, no, all wrong. They are military, they know the flag code, they have no excuses.

That said, the criticism of the parents and the photographer was way over the top. The Flag Code is simply a guideline for proper flag etiquette, it is not a law and there are no legal penalties for violation of any of its provisions. It’s a bad look for active military personnel to violate the code, but it is not a hanging offense.

Ordinary Americans violate the flag code all over the place (examples: ), but they usually do it out of ignorance and are otherwise well meaning. Speak to them reasonably and explain what is wrong with what they are doing and why, and a lot of them will gain a new appreciation for the flag and what it stands for and why we should treat it with the utmost respect.

Education is the key, not screaming GO KILL YOURSELF at strangers on the internet.

With respect,


    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Murphy. | March 13, 2015 at 9:27 pm

    You are accurate in fact, but not in spirit. Even though this is against flag etiquette and military protocol, I can think of nothing more fitting than cradling a beautiful new American in ol’ Glory.

    I love the photo.

By the way, Sarah Palin is another one who doesn’t understand the flag code, as evidenced in this Newsweek cover:

Do I think she needs to be educated? Yes. Do I think she needs to GO KILL HERSELF over it? No.

    chessy in reply to Murphy. | March 13, 2015 at 10:36 am

    This picture is powerfully symbolic – an innocent baby cradled in the symbol representing the most powerful nation and strongest defender of freedom in the world, and held by a serviceman who has dedicated himself to defending those freedoms. I respectfully fly the flag every day at my home, and was very touched by this picture.

    peg_c in reply to Murphy. | March 13, 2015 at 10:58 am

    That’s a very old picture and I suspect also photoshopped. But in any case, I’m way more offended by Newsweak itself than anything to do with Sarah Palin. Do we know for sure Newsweak didn’t photoshop that flag in there to outrage people?

    Milhouse in reply to Murphy. | March 13, 2015 at 11:56 am

    I’m sure she knows about the code, and chooses to disregard it because it’s a load of garbage. There’s nothing disrespectful about her picture.

It is a great picture (flag code etiquette aside) and those criticizing in an over the top manner should get a life and a lesson in civility.

As an image, it’s very powerful. But I’ll have to go with Murph on this one.

There is the letter of the law, then there is the spirit. This picture clearly is in light with the spirit of the law, to honor the country and her patriots.

Folks that can find reason to complain about such a photo are in serious need of a life beyond their keyboard.

The baby is swaddled in clothing. People that wear the flag as pants, shirts, etc. are more deserving of scorn. Frankly, the fact that I served to protect this flag notwithstanding, I see far too many people that do not respect the flag or what it stands for, much less read the flag code.

And that is why we should never allow illegals to receive amnesty; unlike naturalized citizens, they are not required to go through the rigorous education of the history of our country, the governing system, and civics courses necessary to pass the naturalization tests. As a result, they bring their failed country’s system here, and expect us to adapt to it, rather than to adopt to a system that produced the finest country on this planet. And yes, it DOES start with love of a flag.

My apologies for pontificating.

2nd Ammendment Mother | March 13, 2015 at 10:36 am

I saw a meme lately about soldiers running into war not because they love the fighting in front of them but because they love their country, their families and what’s behind them.

I agree that the image reflected what is the very best about our nation and our flag. We want our children wrapped in that promise of freedom.

    As Tolkien wrote:

    “I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I only love that which they defend.”

    I love the symbolism of this picture. The baby, the next generation of Americans, sleeping peacefully and safely cradled in his/her American birthright and heritage, held aloft and supported by one who is both parent and protector of that birthright and heritage. It’s a beautiful thing.

    And while I can see how it’s technically a violation of the flag code, I can’t see how it’s an inherently disrespectful one.

    Besides which: Since when did we start letting ourselves become so outraged over someone else’s family photos? Let’s keep some perspective here, people!

§176. Respect for flag:
(h) The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.

This seems to be the rule most related to this situation. But, to me, “receptacle” doesn’t describe how the flag is being used in this photo.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being OWS burning the flag, and 10 being the Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima, I’d rate this about an 8.

    ss396 in reply to rinardman. | March 13, 2015 at 11:34 am

    § 8. Respect for Flag.
    (d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery.

    It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white, and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker’s desk, draping in front of the platform, and for a decoration in general.

      Milhouse in reply to ss396. | March 13, 2015 at 11:58 am

      So what? I disagree with it, and I assume so do the baby’s parents. What makes our opinion less valuable than those of the idiots who wrote the code?

Henry Hawkins | March 13, 2015 at 10:43 am

Another social media ‘controversy’.

With so many millions and millions of people on social media, you could post a picture of a potato on Facebook and somebody somewhere will be offended by it.

Social media greatly expands the breadth of communication while simultaneously reducing the depth to that of cellophane.

According to a FB friend of mine who is a veteran and a former cop, this does NOT violate flag codes. I have another (very patriotic former citizen of the USSR) FB friend who had this on his wall last night and FB yanked it, presumably due to a complaint from a friend. It’s now on my wall and I want anyone objecting to it to defriend me forthwith. This country is falling apart and people are obsessing over this? Talk about straining at gnats and swallowing camels…

Midwest Rhino | March 13, 2015 at 10:59 am

It breaks the code, but as SCOTUS protected Obama’s friend Ayers when stomping on the flag as free speech, this is also protected speech But this message is obviously to wrap their most precious child in our virtuous flag, which is guarded by the arms of our military.

What is also awesome is got coverage on ABC news, probably since they saw it as a way to cause division with the people yelling about letter of the code, painting them as radical zealots. But they had to give praise to the image, which imprints allegiance to the flag, and to the Republic, for which it stands, one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all. (or do ABC viewers not link those words to the image?)

In an age when Obama followers are stomping on the flag and all we stand for, or raising the Che flag, or other communist versions, it is nice to trick ABC into associating the American flag and military with an “aw so precious”, mixed with a little awe for the military. And now it goes viral … but it is positive speech tied to our flag.

So I have to give it two thumbs up. At the same time, flag protocol is important. But I’d rather see American flag patches everywhere despite many wrong uses, than Che flags on every t-shirt. Education as Murphy says, I agree. But not to the point of condemnation or scolding.

Even those flying flags at home could use some education … they get tattered and need replacement. They leave them up all the time, but not lit at night. They ideally should be the highest thing in the area, but that is hard. So do we really want to make it difficult to express a move toward patriotism? I’m just happy more people are wanting to show they believe in America, usually as opposed to diversity or globalism.

Therefore, actions not specifically included in the Code may be deemed acceptable as long as proper respect is shown.

“Proper respect” may be a bit vague, but I don’t see how this photo shows disrespect.

Considering the current occupant, this is a bit scary:

While the Code empowers the President of the United States to alter, modify, repeal or prescribe additional rules regarding the Flag, no federal agency has the authority to issue ‘official’ rulings legally binding on civilians or civilian groups.

There may well be a bigger issue concerning the flag in the college campus vote to ban the flag. But that does not make disrespectful use of the flag a non-issue.

The US flag is exceptional in being a flag that attracts allegiance, in addition to allegiance to the Nation itself. That there is actually a written Code for the proper handling of the American Flag is, to the best of my knowledge, unique among the nations of the world. In what other country does the handling of that nation’s flag have a Code or provoke controversy?

The symbolism of the flag is not to be sold short. That the photographer is a Navy Veteran, and is of a family with long and extensive military lineage, makes me wonder how it is that they are unaware of the Flag Code? I, too, come from a military lineage and we most definitely knew the proper handling, display, and disposal of the American Flag.

This is not a small issue (as you have discerned from the e-storm). I am disappointed at your light-hearted treatment and dismissive address of the topic.

There is nothing at all disrespectful about this picture. On the contrary, it is completely respectful and appropriate. As for the flag code, phooey on it. Why should I or anyone else give a damn about it? It’s just a few people’s suggestions, and I disagree with them. I think the people who wrote it were idiots, and I pay it no attention.

nordic_prince | March 13, 2015 at 12:10 pm

I get the symbolism, but think it does violate the flag code. However, as others have pointed out, there are other violations of the flag code that are far more egregious – flags as apparel, burning flags, etc.

Ranking right up there in terms of disrespect and offensiveness is the attitude encapsulated by the remarks of one First “Lady,” who said “All this for a flag…”

I put the First Amendment above the flag code.

The picture is beautiful and ful of symbolism.

Yes, it’s a heart-warming photo.
Yes, it technically violates accepted flag etiquette.
Yes, those getting conspicuously arm-wavingly hate-spewingly “outraged” at this need to get a life.

Give us this day our daily fauxtrage.

SoCA Conservative Mom | March 13, 2015 at 4:35 pm

The babies born today and the children being raised right now are this country’s future. Without them, there will be no flag.

Henry Hawkins | March 13, 2015 at 4:45 pm

I am outraged! at the outrage!, so to remain consistent, I am outraged! at myself.

America, thy name is hyperbole.

I’m torn. While I love the picture and what it stands for, I am reminding that that flag plays a huge role in another way. This little video says it all – kudos to Delta Airlines.

Henry Hawkins | March 13, 2015 at 7:12 pm

I see no overt problem with the photo, and that it is well-intended and warmly evocative. I can also see how it might be considered a technical violation of our country’s long-held flag-treatment protocols. None of that matters to me very much.

The only possible maybe kind of negative to this is the ‘good for the goose/good for the gander’ argument that using the flag as a prop to communicate a pro-American sentiment makes it okay for someone else to use the flag as a prop to communicate anti-American sentiment, free speech being in the 1st Amendment for a damn good reason.

Freedom of speech. If I would only honor it for speech I like, I make a political hack of myself, as well as negate about half the complaints I’ve ever lobbed at liberals.

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Henry Hawkins. | March 14, 2015 at 12:23 am

    Our beautiful flag is already widely used as a prop for anti-American sentiment between our own shores and abroad.

    It’s a great photo. 🙂

Combines 3 things that Liberals absolutely despise: America, the military, and a baby that wasn’t aborted.

Frankly, I’m conflicted. I was raised with a certain kind of flag etiquette that didn’t include wearing it, letting it touch the ground, or wrapping your baby in it. Yet I can sort of understand the photographer’s point and her defense of her own patriotism.