03 August 2009

A Return to Cynicism

My wife recently told me that, after rereading all my posts on this blog, she saw an evolution in my attitude from resentment to contentment. Well that just made me mad! A content Army muckraker seems oxymoronic; so, in the spirit of resentment...

But perhaps there is a strain of resignation in my attitude, not from contentment, but from the numbing resignation that comes from working in a system designed to beat one into submission.

OK, that’s enough of that. This week, a particularly delicious ethical query was brought to my attention, and I’d like to test the engagement level of my tiny audience. Please post your comment on the blog! Many of you reply to me, and, as much pleasure as I take from corresponding with you, I think your fellow blog readers will benefit from your wit and wisdom.

Here we go! Keep in mind that this particular ethical query is based on actual events.

Should a U.S. Soldier be allowed to fly a Mexican flag from his porch on a forward military base?
Now, many of you will, no doubt, have reflexive responses to this question. I REALLY want to read your comments, and I am VERY curious about their variety.

Before you type out your answer, consider these additional thought-provoking questions:

 What if the flag was Canadian or British?
 Should the command craft a policy letter prohibiting offending flags?
 How would you deem which flags are prohibited, given the fact that the forward base is home to seven NATO nations?
 Would state flags be subject to the same regulations? What about athletic team flags?

I hope this has been a fun and exciting experience. Remember, the experience isn’t over until you post your thoughts.

And for you die hard seekers of truth, I will post the correct answers to all questions next week.

(Photo of the actual flag under controversy by me)


  1. No. U.S. and U.S. state, and BYU football flags only.

  2. Good call, though you could be brought up on treason charges for the BYU flag.

  3. If you are fulfilling your committment to uphold and defend the constitution of the United States, you should be able to express yourself with whatever flag you want on your personal space. Unless, the Army has some sort of regulation to prevent that. As tasteless as this may be in some cases...unfortunately the right to poor taste is also a freedom we fight for. Obviously flags that could be considered harrassment or intimadation should be removed upon first complaint to your authority.


  4. Great question. My initial instinct was "no," but it's complicated. Flags aren't just about nationality, but a broader self-identification. Outside of a military context, I usually like seeing people's flag as it shows pride. I don't necessarily assume my neighbor sporting an Irish flag is anti-American or an IRA operative. My mother is Taiwanese and I used to hang a Taiwanse flag in my college dorm. I wasn't signalling that I was immigrating back, nor that I loved Chiang Kai Shek and the KMT. I love my family, friends, and the island. I haven't flown a flag in at least 15 years, but I still have little symbols to represent pride in my ancestry (including Mexico).

    Having said that, the military is a whole different animal, especially with something as visible as a flag. Hmmm, after all that babble, I like what Jonathan said.

  5. What was that army motto before Army Strong? Army of One, right? If soldiers are allowed to fly various flags representing their heritage, then civilians could mistake the army as Army of Many. How then will you know who to fight for or against? I think representations of heritage (i.e. flags) should be set aside for the homeland in which you officially reside. As soldiers on a mission - to defend a particular army in which you have enlisted - you should display that flag regardless of your nationality.

    So, unless the individual is representing Mexico on this mission, all other non-Nato flags should be set aside for soldier's personal spaces - should they wish to diplay a their national flag.

    P.S. You were mad, what?! :)

  6. I feel like it may be inappropriate on a forward installation. The installation is being supported by a myriad of countries. Country flags are definitely a source of pride for an individual, to remind them of where they come from (long live Scotland!). But alas, I would leave my Scottish pride inside were I at an active installation. I feel like the soldiers would be more sensitive to the issue were the principle stated in a way that they understood though. If a no-other-country's-flags statement created simply stating, "no you can't" than I don't think the reaction would be super-awesome...

  7. We actually ran into a similar problem here on FOB Prosperity. With the way things are now in Iraq FOBs are only allowed to fly one American flag at a time, despite this an incoming unit ran the American flag up the pole infront of their hq building. The command got in an uproar (more than if I got to the latrine with out my reflective belt at 2 a.m.). There is no problam however with running state flags on any poles.

    Now that I have thought things through and given my little story, I would say that if it is flying off of a soldiers living area and isn't higher than the host nation or American flag there is no problem, state flags are no problem, and sports teams are no problem. If you ban what flags people can put up that's just assinine, so let me guess you were told to take it down.

  8. i believe that what goes on inside your room is your business and you can show whatever flag what you want. once you step outside that room i feel the only flag that should be displayed is the american flag. i mean there is a reason why every person in the american army wears the same uniform and the only flag to be worn in the american flag on your right shoulder. i know there is the freedom that comes with america but when you are fighting for your country wouldn't you want to display that flag that represents every american back home? so i say what you put up in your room is fine but just like that one picture shows of the men putting up the american flag up on the hill shows you what should be flown outside!

  9. I have read all the comments and i thought this was a free country we have people from all parts of the world that come in the army and when they die for the US Army i dont hear people taking about that cause most of your american people are at home not doing anything cause there too scared and afaid to go to the front lines like i have 5 times so anyways so like the people who said to take the flag down there just wrong how come they dont tell the others to take there flags down i think you people should have a glass of shut the f**K up and worry about better things in the world then this

  10. To answer Tyler's question, no I wasn't told anything. It's not my flag. The flag's owner was told (unofficially) to take it down, and he's playing along right now. There will have to be some policy resolution on this soon.

    I want to put a flag that nobody recognizes just to confound the sergeants major.

  11. The answer lies in the question... "U.S. Soldier"... I believe that you take an oath upon entering the army and that the country and/or flag are probably mentioned... :)
    American lives have been sacrificed in many places around the world for many decades, in the defense of freedom for all. When Mexico, or whatever country, or international body (NATO, U.N.) starts to pay the bill or make the sacrifice then that flag can be hung.... until then, NO! Old glory only on the porch or in the room, there are other items of memorabilia that can remind one of their heritage.
    As for Dave.... the people of Kosovo should demand that the BYU flag be removed. :)
    -Uncle Rick

  12. Anonymous, this is indeed a free country. As in any free country, there is also freedom of speech in which we are all taking advantage of on this blog.

    I've also gone back to read everyone's post, including mine. No one is stating that individual flags shouldn't be displayed in a soldier's private space. However, a soldier should re-consider displaying his/her national flag on the porch on a base. Especially if the soldier is on a mission to defend, say, the Russia, Britain, United States, you pick.

    Now, you bring up a good point: "how come they dont tell the others to take there flags down". Well, the question posed on this blog didn't indicate that the Mexican flag was singled out of many. So, this point is good, but invalid in this case.

    Thank you for your service. I can't say that I'd be brave enough to do what you have done for the sake of our freedom.

    Rich, when can we get the right answer? I'm very curious.

  13. How is this different from posting a CA flag along with an MIA flag and a US flag?

    I see the difference, but it seems slight.

    If the concern is troop morale leading to infighting, favoritism, etc. then I am against it.

    Rich -- you and I know from teaching that it's much easier to say "no" than to open the door to lots of maybes, what-ifs, and special customizations for everyone. Maybe they're just thinking it makes it easier to keep control.

    This actually reminds me of a way in the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy. From what I understand, it's ok to be gay, as long as you don't talk about it to anyone, leading to people hiding their identities for the sake of uniformity.

    This is the military, after all -- everyone wears a 'uniform...' not a 'uniquiform' or 'differentaform,' right?

  14. You read it here first! Alex T. has coined the term, "differentaform."



  16. United States Oath of Allegiance

    I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God

    Oath of Enlistment (National Guard)

    I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the State of (STATE NAME) against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the Governor of (STATE NAME) and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to law and regulations. So help me God.

    I think that the fact the some of you are trying to make the argument that because other counties have their flag flying so why can't the Mexican flag be flown is absurd and irrelevant. This is an American Forward Operating Base where soldiers from Armenia, Greece, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and the Ukraine operate in a Multinational Task Force that are represented in the Eastern Sector of Kosovo and some of these soldiers also work and reside on Camp Bondsteel. Last time I checked I didn't see the Mexican Army in the Task Organization for MNTF E.

    I'm not saying that you can't be proud of your heritage and fly your flag of your nationality in your own personal space, but given the situation in the US with the high tension of illegal immigration in our country and especially in California it almost seems that this soldier is trying to make a point or some type of solidarity towards the country of Mexico as well as causing tension between other US Army Soldiers. I know that the CAL Guard is represented by many soldiers with Hispanic heritage and they have served and fought proudly in the US Armed Forces since WWI.

    Don't forget...it says U.S. ARMY on your uniform

    I pose this question for the blog:
    If they took the oath to become a United States Citizen and to also become a US Service Member. Why is there a need to fly another countries flag when you took a oath to solemnly swear your allegiance and you would support this country...The United States of America

  17. Annoymous, I'll have to give this one to Grumpy. There is no need to fly another country's flag, given the oath a soldier takes, other than in your personal space.

  18. If someone displays a Mexican (or any other) flag it almost seems like they are showing more respect for that country instead of America. Why not fly both? I wouldn't see the problem if they would show respect for the country in which they live and serve.

  19. We are talking about a NATO Peace Keeping Mission on a American Forward Operating Base. Last time I checked Mexico was not one of the 28 Independent NATO Countries nor are they a NATO Partner Country. Therefore, I would say NO.

    But that shouldn't stop the soldier from flying the Mexican flag in their own personal space.

  20. dear anonymous,
    sorry to offend, i know people of many nationalities and ethnic backgrounds sacrifice lives in defense of freedom, my point is backed by others that this force represents the USA and given the fact that the paycheck is from the american taxpayer, a bill that i am more than willing and proud to contribute to, you fly the flag you defend and honor.

  21. you guys aare blowing this way out there anyways to all you football fans out so its ok to have a football flag outside fly you just dont like the fact that we fly our colors i mean our as in both flags usa and mexico dont u have something better to do then to write on this well for FYI THE WORD UNITED STATES THAT YOU SO LOVE WAS INDEED MEXICO WORD FOR ESTADOS UNIDOS MEXICANOS IF YOU DONT KNOW WHAT IT MEANS THEN ASK A MEXICAN or check your history books