I was dropping my daughter off at elementary school today and noticed the flag was at half-mast. At first I thought maybe Jimmy Carter had died, or Clinton ran across a jealous husband (more likely an angry father). But no, it looks like the flag was lowered for the victims of the Virginia Tech shooting.
I’m a reasonably sympathetic guy and all, but this just isn’t appropriate for putting flags at half-mast. I took a quick look around the web and found some rules that make sense – though I don’t know if they’re official. I put them at the bottom of this post.
The problem here is that we now magnify anything we can find to make it into a national tragedy. I do agree this was a tragedy. As a father of two young girls, and as someone whose brother died in his teens, I completely sympathize with the families in this incident.
But we badly need a reality check. More than 100 people die in a typical day in the US in car accidents. And that’s not just one day. That’s every day. Tobacco kills more people in an hour than died in the VT shooting.
Whether your kid dies in a shooting or they die in a car accident, your kid is still dead. Look back at Vietnam and I’d say you’ve got a national tragedy. Most of us feel the same way about Iraq and that’s still going.
As for those rules on lowering the flag:
First: Only the president of the United States or the governor of the state may order the flag to be at half-staff to honor the death of a national or state figure.
Second, I saw a bunch of situations, including lengths of time, where it’s considered appropriate:
a. Thirty days after the death of a president or former president
b. Ten days after the death of a vice president, the chief of justice or a retired chief of justice or the speaker of the house of representatives.
c.Until the burial of an associate justice of the Supreme Court, secretary of a military department, a former vice president, or the governor of a state, territory, or possession.
d.On the day of and the day after the death of a member of Congress.
e. On Memorial Day, the day set aside to honor all the people who have died while serving the United States & originally called Decoration Day, the flag is flown at half-Staff until noon, then raised to full staff until sundown.