[A]s we approach Independence Day, it's time to practice some basic flag etiquette. It's all spelled out in the United States Code, the permanent laws of the land. Title 4 of the Code, Chapter 1, outlines the federal rules and regulations governing the display and treatment of our flag. [...]
The final section of Title 4 captures the essence of why the American flag is so important -- and so different -- from any other flag: "The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing."
The exceptional nature of our country and its flag wasn't lost on the founding fathers. Consider what Benjamin Franklin wrote in his post-war pamphlet, Information to Those Who Would Remove to America, an effort to advertise the wide-open American nation to the best that Europe had to offer.
Franklin wrote that in America "people do not enquire, concerning a stranger, What is he? but What can he do? If he has any useful art, he is welcome; and if he exercises it and behaves well, he will be respected by all that know him; but a mere man of quality, who on that account wants to live upon the public by some office or salary, will be despised and disregarded."
Franklin was attempting to explain to a muddled mass of European peasants and nobility alike that hard work, intelligence, and character are what matter in America.