American Flag Epidemic

The French apparently find American flag waving akin to a disease. So, at least, one gathers from the Agence France Presse story ” US ‘flag epidemic’ reaches peak on Fourth of July.”

It’s a true epidemic: the red, white and blue, stars-and-stripes banners are everywhere in the United States – on house facades, front lawns, cars and clothes. Hitting an high point on the July 4 US Independence Day holiday, it is a genuine phenomenon of American national pride that, inevitably, gets a good but also sometimes unwanted boost from commercial exploitation.

“It’s a little strange, this obsession of the flag,” French author Bernard-Henri Levy wrote after traveling across the country. “Everywhere, in every form, flapping in the wind or on stickers, an epidemic of flags that has spread throughout the city,” Levy wrote in “American Vertigo” of the riot of banners he saw.

“Old Glory,” as the US flag is affectionately called, can be seen in abundance through the year in the American heartland and the South, and to a lesser extent in cities like New York and Los Angeles. Patriotic flag-waving strengthened in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and increased even more with the beginning of the war in Iraq as a testament of support for President George W. Bush. But the phenomenon hits its peak each year around the Fourth of July, when it becomes the focus of intense advertising and commercial promotions. At shopping malls, big and small national banners show up on jeans, baseball caps, dinner plates and swimsuits. The Stars and Stripes decorate everything — from tattoos and fingernails to huge cakes.

The “riot” of banners?

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DC Loser says:

    The French aren’t the only ones who make this observation. Brits routinely compares the public display of the US flag here with the very restrained use of the Union Jack in the UK. It’s very rarely flown by ordinary citizens there, and I only recall seeing its mass use in official commemorations or ceremonies, or at football matches (though they more likely use the English, Scottish, or other national flags at the games).

  2. Maggie says:

    Until Germany’s hosting of the World Cup, the Germans NEVER displayed their “colors”. Only in the last month or so has it become more acceptable.

    I think it’s a “riot” that they think WE are the strange ones!

  3. Mark says:

    Perhaps if other citizens would show the same pride in their country as we do here in America, then their nations can be as great.

    Or not…

  4. Anderson says:

    The flag was one point among many in Garrison Keillor’s magnificent slapdown of Henri-Levy:

    But every 10 pages or so, Lévy walks into a wall. About Old Glory, for example. Someone has told him about the rules for proper handling of the flag, and from these (the flag must not be allowed to touch the ground, must be disposed of by burning) he has invented an American flag fetish, a national obsession, a cult of flag worship. Somebody forgot to tell him that to those of us not currently enrolled in the Boy Scouts, these rules aren’t a big part of everyday life.

    Read the whole thing.

  5. madmatt says:

    Seeing the flag is regularly made into thongs I really don’t see where the burning of the flag is a concern! And for Mark, if our country is so great, then why do so many people hate us?

  6. “The â??riotâ?? of banners?”

    You have to admit, the French know about riots. So I think we have to defer to the experts on this.

  7. Mark says:

    And for Mark, if our country is so great, then why do so many people hate us?


  8. Anderson says:


    Yes, we have so many dicks in our government.

  9. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Anderson, I agree with you. Some of their names are Murtha, Kerry, Kennedy x 2, Pelosi, although she doesn’t look like one, Reid, etc, etc. Funny, those dicks you talk about seem to populate just one side of the aisle.

  10. DC Loser says:

    Then there is the real “Dick.”

  11. Anderson says:

    Then there is the real â??Dick.â??

    Ain’t nothin’ like the real thing, baby!

  12. Gollum says:

    If my country’s continuing seat on the UN Security Council were the same kind of mercy-f*ck that France’s is, I’d probably have a complex about national pride too.