About Flags


First of all, I apologize for the sporadic posting lately. It’s just been one thing after another. Some good, some bad, but cumulatively time consuming and distracting. This inconsistency will probably persist another few weeks, both here and on Nagan of Copenhagen.

I’ve been gifted some time this evening, however, and that’s a good thing, because—well, wait: you guys know it’s Pride Month, right?

While skimming headlines earlier today I saw this headline on TV2 News:

Minority Wants New Flag Rules
Jesper Sørensen, TV2 News, June 20

Two possibilities presented themselves immediately: either the socially conservative minority parties in Denmark were seeking to rein in the excessive displays of the so-called Pride Flag, or the socially liberal progressive minority parties in Denmark were seeking to perpetuate them through force of law.

But that’s not what this is about.

Turns out, this is about the German-speaking minority in southern Jutland seeking to liberalize the laws governing when and where the German flag can be flown in Denmark.

South of the border (in Germany), the Danish minority can freely hoist the Danish cloth up their flagpoles.

But the approximately 15,000 German-minded citizens north of the border (in Denmark) must send an application before they are allowed to fly the German flag in schwarz, rot und gold. This is causing problems.

Did you know that? I did not know that.

In Denmark, you can fly the Dannebrog (the Danish flag) and the flags of Greenland, the Faroe Islands, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland, as well as the UN flag and the EU flag, without police permission.

If you want to raise the flags of other nations, you need permission from the police every time. However, Danish hotels have a special right to fly all kinds of flags without seeking permission first.

Only Danish hotels?

And the Pride flag isn’t included?

Even in Pride month?!

As a rule, the permits are conditioned on the simultaneous flying of a Dannebrog of at least the same size and in at least an equally prominent place. The condition can be waived if the applicant only has one flagpole.

And here we get to a news story of immense interest to me that had slipped beneath my radar:

The issue of foreign flags has become relevant again due to a very principled case in the Supreme Court. A man from Kolding was in the Supreme Court last week because he had hoisted the American flag, Stars & Stripes, on his flagpole at home.

The Danish flag rules are scattered across various regulations and executive orders, but there is no unified law on flag flying. Therefore, the man’s lawyer, Carsten Hove, has argued that when there is no law, you cannot punish his client. If the Supreme Court gives him the right in this, it may have an impact on all flying of foreign flags.

The first summer Herself and I lived together in Denmark, we had a little apartment in a complex in Frederiksberg. I was a little homesick being in Denmark on my first Fourth of July, so I hung an American flag in our window. Not the window facing the street, but a window looking onto the courtyard.

It was only up an hour or two before one of those insufferable busybodies came knocking at our terrace door asking whether I knew that it was illegal to hang the flag of another country in our window. He asked in Danish, so I just smiled and wished him a happy Fourth of July.

Herself heard us chatting, and since she was the only one of the three of us who understood both languages, she quickly intervened. She and the Very Concerned Gentleman had a surprisingly animated discussion of which I understood not a word.

She sent the sour old fart packing and then told me that even though the guy was a jerk, he had the law on his side. The flag would have to come down unless we hung a larger Danish flag in another window.

We didn’t have a larger Danish flag at that point, so that was that. I had meant no disrespect to Denmark, or to our apartment complex: I’d merely wanted a touch of home on my first Independence Day abroad.

But I’m very curious to see how “Kolding Man v. Whoever Busted Him” plays out in the Supreme Court. Ironically enough, I’m very much against Kolding Man in this case. This is Denmark, not America. Flags are important symbols—obviously, or Kolding Man wouldn’t have bothered forcing this case all the way to the Supreme Court—and I think it’s perfectly reasonable only to permit the flying of another nation’s flag if you’re giving the Danish flag pride of place.

Which brings us to a similar case in America:

U.S. Flag Code §7.(e):

The flag of the United States of America should be at the center and at the highest point of the group when a number of flags of States or localities or pennants of societies are grouped and displayed from staffs.

I know, I know, I’m getting all apple-and-orangey here: we’ve gone from German flags in southern Jutland to American flags being hoisted in Kolding to U.S. Flag Code violations at the American White House.

The common thread here is obvious: either flags are important symbols and should be treated with appropriate respect, or flags are just colorful bits of cloth that can be flown any which way and for whatever reason.

June in Copenhagen is awash in rainbow Pride flags, many of them flapping in the wind without a Danish companion. I assume things have reached a similar state in American cities.

So do we or do we not have flag rules?

If we do, what’s the special exception that allows the Pride flag to flout them?

If we don’t, what’s to stop Kolding Man from hoisting his American flag, or for Hans and Heidi Schmidt of Tønder from hoisting the “schwartz, rot, und guld,” or for some sicko from hoisting the Islamic State flag, whenever and wherever they want?

Those aren’t rhetorical questions but they might as well be: we already know the answers.