President Obama, Our Flag and Nelson Mandela

U.S. Flag at half-staff in Remembrance of Nelson MandelaIt helps to know the history of your country, the rules and etiquette of your nation’s flag and the authority your nation’s leader has regarding the nation’s flag.
If you haven’t already, keep reading the internet web and/or listening to the news and social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. There you’ll see, read and/or hear trending stories of people and pundits making a fuss over President Barack Obama’s order to lower our nation’s flag to half-staff in memory of former South African president Nelson Mandela who passed away Thursday, December 5,Barack Obama 2013. Click Nelson Mandela: A Timeline to read my post and get a quick view of his life. On that date, President Obama issued a presidential proclamation ordering our flags to be lowered to half-staff until sunset Monday, December 9, 2013. Click Presidential Proclamation – Death of Nelson Mandela to read the proclamation. There is one particular story trending where a sheriff in South Carolina is defying the president’s flags at half-staff order in his department. Read that story here. NOTE: There is no legal penalty for defying the presidential order.

Some people are saying that lowering our flag for foreign leaders is not customary – which would be true to some extent if American history of the past forty-eight years didn’t suggest otherwise. Others are saying that since Mandela was not an American citizen then President Obama is/was wrong to order that the flag of the United States be lowered in his honor. And, as has so often been the case where half-staff-flags2Barack Obama is concerned, there are those people who are jumping on the ever-moving and ever-growing Obama-hate bandwagon to add their own senseless criticism of our president against something which they know little to nothing about. All of these people apparently refuse to check facts or do any research. As usual, I’m here to set the record straight and help quell the senseless argument(s) on this non-issue!
Here are the facts:

  1. By law, the President of the United States has the authority to order the U.S. flag flown at half-staff upon the death of a foreign dignitary. Click to read the U.S. Code regarding the Flag of the United States.
  2. The rare or customary practice (these terms are debatable so take your pick) – if we are to judge American history on this issue, was most notably first put into place by:
    • President Lyndon B. Johnson – upon the death of England’s former Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1965 
      followed by
    • President Ronald Reagan – upon the death of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981
    • President Bill Clinton – upon the deaths of Israel Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 and of Jordan’s King Hussein bin Talal in 1999
    • President George W. Bush – upon the death of Pope Paul II in 2005.

    Keep in mind that by the United States lowering its national flag for our friendly yet deceased foreign dignitaries in these situations, we show Nelson Mandela 1918-2013solidarity and respect as a nation to our allies. President Obama is/was legally and morally correct in his action in giving the order to have our nation’s flags lowered to half-staff in memory and respect of the late Nelson Mandela.

    Now, how do I know all of this? Simple. Not only did I live in all of those moments just mentioned, I also spent twenty years in the Navy and had lots of burial detail duty. I recall quite a bit about flag etiquette. I also did my homework and rechecked my dates to make sure my memory of these facts was accurate. I encourage each of you to do the same.
    ** And now, this quick semi-related “NTK” (nice-to-know) info **
    Perhaps you’ve heard the terms half-staff and half-mast used interchangeably and wondered which term was correct.
    Here’s all you need to know:
    In American English, a flag flown halfway up its flagpole as a symbol of mourning is at half-staff  while a flag flown halfway up a ship’s mast is to signal mourning or distress and is referred to as being at half-mast.. Outside North America, half-staff is not a widely used term Flag at half-mast on ship inportand half-mast is used in reference to half-raised flags both on land and at sea. The term half-mast is also preferred in Canada for both uses, though half-staff appears more frequently there than it does outside North America.
    Reference: My personal U.S. Navy experience – supported by
    Now you know!

    Keepin’ It…REAL!

4 thoughts on “President Obama, Our Flag and Nelson Mandela

    • Thank you for visiting and reading the blog. I appreciate your compliments and readership!
      And no; I did not hire a designer for the blog. I simply found a template I liked and made some modifications to suit my tastes, resulting in the end product you see. Thanks again! 🙂

  1. If only everyone was a thorough in their research as yourself, Rob! That’s why most of us depend on you for doing what you do best…keeping us all real (and informed). Thank you!

    There will always be President Obama-haters. Nothing our elected leader ever does will ever satisfy them. I simply consider the source and carry on. Rarely, if ever, do their opinions bare any semblance to logic or legitimacy. However, I do respect their right to their own thoughts, no matter how flawed or inaccurate.

    I would like to think the reason for all the hate is based on something other than race. Unfortunately, this probably isn’t the case. I just allow them to stress over their hatred. It’s their health that’s being compromised, not mine.

    Thank you for setting the record on course, Rob! Much love and naked hugs, brother! 🙂

    • Thanks for reading and for your comment, Roger! It’s always appreciated!
      As I told a friend on Facebook yesterday, I was keeping it real by NOT going near the level of race on this issue and trying to “stay above the cream”, so to speak, by pointing out how past presidents honored other deceased foreign dignitaries who were friends/allies of the United States. Even Obama haters/dissenters cannot ignore historical facts if such is documented and presented to them. That’s why I wrote this article; simply to let others know that as president, Obama did right by his actions and that our U.S. Code governing the flag supports his actions. Many people aren’t aware of this and thus might make this an “Obama’s Black and so he did this because Mandela was Black” issue. Hogwash, yes, but so what if he did? That sort of thing cannot be proven and I will always give Barack Obama far more credit to being the man that I see him to be. The point of this article is to try to offset that ludicrous and possibly racist frame of thinking.
      Again, thanks for reading, my friend. Much love and C2C hugs! 😉

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