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Should a non-citizen be saluting the flag?
July 24, 2009 7:08 AM   Subscribe

Should a non-citizen be saluting the flag? ... We have a friend staying for a couple of weeks who is not a US citizen (we're in the USA). He's here mainly for some formal events some to do with the Boy Scouts. He and I seek the proper advice about various national symbols and the right way for a non-citizen to behave.

The Scouts often do flag ceremonies. Also recite the the Pledge of Allegiance. And in those formal ceremonies, salute each other and salute the flag as it raised and lowered.

Now, he'll happily just copy everybody else - he doesn't have a problem with that, but part of the education we try to give the Scouts is to with national pride and the right way to do things. So really for him just to copy the Americans isn't really 'right' and doesn't express his national pride (for his nation).

This is what we're come up with so far do him to do.

- Pledge of Allegiance - stand respectfully silent.

- Nation Anthem - sing along (it's a good song he says), but no hand on heart.

- Raising/lowering Stars and Stripes alone - stand to attention but no salute.

- Raising/lowering Stars and Stripes along with other Scout flags - stand to attention and salute. (so he's saluting the Scout flag but not the US flag).

- Other 'internal' Scout honorifics (like saluting the color guard) - just as the others do.

What do you think? About right?

I guess the answers to this isn't specific to the Boy Scouts. There must be official rules for type of this situation.
Any pointers please?


Thanks
posted by Xhris to Society & Culture (35 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I frequently attend a robotics competition that often has international teams. We start each day of competition with the national anthem of the US and whichever countries have visiting teams. During the international anthems, everyone stands, but does not salute, and similarly the foreign teams stand for the Star Spangled Banner but do not salute. I think everyone is happy with this arrangement and feels it is respectful.

So given that, I think your suggestions are correct.
posted by olinerd at 7:14 AM on July 24, 2009


I get why you're asking, but personally? My concern with protocol would be far outweighed bythe fact that I could potentially make my friend feel left out.
posted by runningwithscissors at 7:15 AM on July 24, 2009


I don't know about 'formalities' of saluting/hand on heart/reciting pledges or other sorts of symbols of overt loyalty/fealty, but I am curious as to whether this young boy is a non-citizen of the US but nonetheless a resident?

Because it strikes me that one could have 'national pride' of living in a country for some time -- especially as a child -- without necessarily having acquired the legal status of 'citizen'. If that is so, and he wants to demonstrate pride in where he is living by doing whatever it is you do, I say go ahead and let him. On the other hand, I have no experience of living in a country where there are even such things as 'loyalty oaths' or 'pledges of allegiance', so I have no sense of how important this is to you, and whether allowing him to participate would detract from its importance.

In my own experience with national anthems, religious services, etc that I do not feel a need to show overt loyalty to, I simply stand respectfully quiet while everyone else goes about their business.
posted by modernnomad at 7:17 AM on July 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


"§ 9. Conduct during hoisting, lowering or passing of flag

During the ceremony of hoisting or lowering the flag or when the flag is passing in a parade or in review, those present in uniform should render the military salute. Members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute. All other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, or if applicable, remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Citizens of other countries should stand at attention. All such conduct toward the flag in a moving column should be rendered at the moment the flag passes.
"

From the flag code.
posted by 517 at 7:20 AM on July 24, 2009 [7 favorites]


- stand respectfully silent.
- but no hand on heart.
- stand to attention but no salute.


Depending on where you live in the U.S., and where you take him, I would imagine that his visible nonparticipation could be taken as pointed disrespect, which sounds like the opposite of your intention. These are mass, baseball stadium customs, imo (it’s not the bloody Eucharist) and I think politeness is the key. He's in the United States (and I'm assuming he is not here in official representation of his country is the case in olinerd's example above) so he should go with the flow, when in Rome, et. al.
posted by applemeat at 7:20 AM on July 24, 2009


He really shouldn't salute a flag that is not his. Note, from 517 above:

Citizens of other countries should stand at attention. All such conduct toward the flag in a moving column should be rendered at the moment the flag passes."

Anyone who thinks it's disrespectful to not salute the flag of the US if you're not a US citizen is either an exceptionalist moron or ignorant of very basic internation etiquette.

I think your list is fine, and your friend shouldn't worry about offending anyone.
posted by Happy Dave at 7:25 AM on July 24, 2009


Yup, just stand silently, probably remove the hat if he's wearing one. ESPECIALLY if he's at Boy Scout events, there should be NO issue with this, especially if there are other international folks there.

Eagle Scout here who used to really get a kick out of the pomp and circumstance associated with flag etiquette.

For reference, the American Legion is who generally answers flag questions, here's a link to their flag page.
posted by TomMelee at 7:29 AM on July 24, 2009


I'm a Canadian living in the U.S. and I respectfully disagree with applemeat. I will not salute the flag nor will I put my hand on my heart and I won't recite the oath. I wouldn't expect applemeat to salute the Canadian flag either and I also wouldn't take it as a sign of disrespect.
posted by substrate at 7:38 AM on July 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


Will he be in uniform? Only uniformed parties actually salute. If he is in uniform he should probably obey local customs. Stand at attention, and remove hat is about all that's required if not in uniform.
posted by Gungho at 7:44 AM on July 24, 2009


Anyone who thinks it's disrespectful to not salute the flag of the US if you're not a US citizen is either an exceptionalist moron or ignorant of very basic internation etiquette.

Happy Dave, while factually correct, misses the point: "Exceptionalist morons" at a [stadium game/NASCAR rally/NASA lift-off, etc. etc.] have no way of knowing that the kid is not a US citizen.
posted by applemeat at 7:47 AM on July 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


your friend can be expected to be respectful and not disturb the scene but should not be forced to participate in any pledges. standing at attention sounds right but by demanding they'd salute a flag other than theirs you'd actually be reducing the act itself since everyone knowing their nationality would know they didn't mean what they were doing. there is something to be said for a salutation being just a greeting and it being a common courtesy to ones hosts but I wouldn't insist on anything more than you'd be willing to do. how would you feel about saluting a foreign flag?

I spent about ten years living all over the US as a foreigner but never faced a situation where anyone else cared what I did in regards to a flag. I think it's more about being decent to each other.
posted by krautland at 7:47 AM on July 24, 2009


If a person is not from here then they should not be expected to salute our flag. I second standing silently and being respectful. If you need some visual maybe you could youtube NHL matches when Canadian teams visit the US and vice versa.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 7:49 AM on July 24, 2009


Respectfully, I think you're overthinking this plate of beans.

Obviously you've talked with the kid about this. So, tell him "Look, it's important to be respectful at this event, but at the same time it's not your country or your flag. So do what feels right to you."

If he wants to just follow along with the Americans, even if it's just to fit in or to avoid being labeled as THE FOREIGNER or to avoid having to explain his actions a hundred times, let him.

Saying that he doesn't have to salute the flag etc, or that he can refrain from doing so while not being impolite, is a reasonable accommodation to his being a citizen of another country. Saying that he's not allowed to salute the flag etc is downright unamerican.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:51 AM on July 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


by demanding they'd salute a flag other than theirs you'd actually be reducing the act itself since everyone knowing their nationality would know they didn't mean what they were doing.

This. If I was attending and saw him saluting and reciting the oath, etc. and knew he wasn't American, it would bother me. There's supposed to be meaning in the actions and words, and it would take away from those.

Plus:

how would you feel about saluting a foreign flag?

A key point. I know I couldn't do it. The very idea gives me the willies. I have aboslutely no problem with standing at attention/respectfully, and even singing along, but that would be my limit.
posted by aclevername at 7:54 AM on July 24, 2009


maybe add this person's national flag to the mix? if it's a scouting event, the color guard might enjoy working and learning the different proceedures.
posted by lester at 8:03 AM on July 24, 2009


As a Canadian living in the US, I disagree with applemeat and ROU_Xenophobe. I think it would be inappropriate for a non-American to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, for instance, even if he or she wanted to. "Allowed" is putting the wrong spin on things---but since clearly a non-American isn't actually pledging allegiance to the flag of the United States and to the republic for which it stands, they shouldn't say that they are.

Xhris, particularly as you are asking about a situation where the participants do know and care about protocol, I think your suggestions strike exactly the right note---I would do the same things in that situation.
posted by goingonit at 8:03 AM on July 24, 2009


We had 2 brothers from the UK in our troop. We handled it exactly the way you proposed. No problems.
posted by chillmost at 8:14 AM on July 24, 2009


Have him pledge allegiance to his own country while everyone pledges allegiance to the US. Seriously. And if there's a prayer and he's an atheist, have him read some Dawkins. (Unless, of course, the BSA is still intolerant of people who don't believe in their god.) That way everyone will be saying what they really believe.

Unless, of course, he's one of those crazy people who thinks countries are just invisible lines drawn between people and nothing more.
posted by Brian Puccio at 8:25 AM on July 24, 2009


Happy Dave, while factually correct, misses the point: "Exceptionalist morons" at a [stadium game/NASCAR rally/NASA lift-off, etc. etc.] have no way of knowing that the kid is not a US citizen.

I sincerely doubt there will be a lot of NASCAR fans at a Scout meet.

I may be misreading the OP's question, but I believe the the non-citizen concerned is an adult scout volunteer, not a minor. It's not a question of fitting in etc, it's a question of proper flag etiquette. I would certainly not expect US scouts, servicemen or anyone else to salute my Queen or the British flag, and nobody should expect this person to salute, swear a pledge or do anything that citizens are expected to do.

It may be overthinking a plate of beans, but these symbols and ceremonies have decades of precedent behind them, and doing something 'to fit in' when it's incorrect according to any flag or ceremonial code I've ever come across is silly. Phantom NASCAR eejits who might scream abuse notwithstanding.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:32 AM on July 24, 2009


When I was at girl scout camp, we had a number of counselors from other countries (Australia, New Zealand, etc) and they always simply stood at attention during our flag ceremonies.
posted by dagnyscott at 8:44 AM on July 24, 2009


I sincerely doubt there will be a lot of NASCAR fans at a Scout meet

Never been to a Scout meeting, have you?
posted by peep at 8:45 AM on July 24, 2009


Happy Dave, while factually correct, misses the point: "Exceptionalist morons" at a [stadium game/NASCAR rally/NASA lift-off, etc. etc.] have no way of knowing that the kid is not a US citizen.

Even at a NASCAR rally or a football game in the deep south, there's not a lot of flag policing going on. Seriously, if the dude stands at attention (basically, stands up and shuts up), no one's going to beat him up afterward. Especially if he chooses to remove any head covering.
posted by muddgirl at 8:48 AM on July 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Actually, scratch the head covering thing.
posted by muddgirl at 8:49 AM on July 24, 2009


I don't sing the national anthem or put my hand on my heart or do anything with the flag (I am quite anti-patriotism). No one bothers me about it. I do stand quietly and respectfully.
posted by kathrineg at 8:57 AM on July 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


since clearly a non-American isn't actually pledging allegiance to the flag of the United States and to the republic for which it stands, they shouldn't say that they are

Two things.

First, you don't know that. I could pledge allegiance to the Crown and the Dominion over which it reigns even though I'm not a Canadian citizen or even resident in Canada, and do so completely sincerely, just because I think that Canada is full of win. Repeat ad nauseam for any other country including the US.

Second, many of the Americans saying those words also aren't actually pledging their allegiance doozaflag of the United States of America and to the republic for Richard Stanz. In particular, ask any devout Christians at a BSA event whether they're really giving their full allegiance to Obama's US instead of to Christ. So in any event it's not that hard for a foreigner to pledge their allegiance to the US in exactly the same minimal, vague way that the bulk of Americans do.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:05 AM on July 24, 2009


I don't sing the national anthem or put my hand on my heart or do anything with the flag (I am quite anti-patriotism). No one bothers me about it.

No offense meant--and, believe me, I’d much rather be among other Americans like you than among ignorant, exceptionalist morons--but you do live in Chelsea, Manhattan, and things like this are just not, on average, so free and casual in, say, Dallas, or Indianapolis, or Atlanta. And if my foreign tourist friend in a place like this had no personal objection to visibly “going through the motions” with our pledge of allegiance in the company of tens of thousands of drunken rednecks, I’d say let’s go ahead and do it.
posted by applemeat at 9:45 AM on July 24, 2009


Stand respectfully. No salutes, nada, none, never.

I'm quite sure that the Boy Scout Handbook or similar has specific guidance of the same tenor. It is an international organization, of course, despite having a bent toward inculcating local patriotism.

I can't understand why this is even an issue, and I doubt that many non-drunken Americans would hassle someone for merely standing -- assuming they notice. Standing without specifically saluting is among the variety of things that people do.
posted by dhartung at 10:14 AM on July 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


No offense meant--and, believe me, I’d much rather be among other Americans like you than among ignorant, exceptionalist morons--but you do live in Chelsea, Manhattan, and things like this are just not, on average, so free and casual in, say, Dallas, or Indianapolis, or Atlanta. And if my foreign tourist friend in a place like this had no personal objection to visibly “going through the motions” with our pledge of allegiance in the company of tens of thousands of drunken rednecks, I’d say let’s go ahead and do it.

I spent most of my life elsewhere, including a long stint in Colorado Springs, CO!

I agree that if you have no objections to it, you might as well do it. But there is no need to be paranoid. If he decides not to salute/participate fully and anything happens, have him explain that he is not trying to be disrespectful.
posted by kathrineg at 10:20 AM on July 24, 2009


First, you don't know that. I could pledge allegiance to the Crown and the Dominion over which it reigns even though I'm not a Canadian citizen or even resident in Canada, and do so completely sincerely, just because I think that Canada is full of win. Repeat ad nauseam for any other country including the US.

No, you couldn't. "An allegiance is a duty of fidelity said to be owed by a subject or a citizen to his/her state or sovereign." Unless you plan on switching countries, you can't pledge your allegiance to a sovereign (or, in the weird case of the US, a flag) other than yours.

And this question isn't about what people do do -- this is a question about what people should do. I know that lots of kids "pledge a legions", but that doesn't mean that someone modeling proper behavior for a bunch of Boy Scouts should do the same.

Side note: in Canada and I'm sure other commonwealth countries, when someone does take an Oath of Allegiance, it is solely to the Monarch and his/her heirs or successors. You don't owe allegiance to Canada, just to the Queen.
posted by goingonit at 12:09 PM on July 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Exceptionalist morons" at a [stadium game/NASCAR rally/NASA lift-off, etc. etc.] have no way of knowing that the kid is not a US citizen.

If they bring it up, then they get to learn proper etiquette for honoring their flag. If they don't bring it up, no-one cares.

In a scout setting, it might even be worth making a point that there is an example of non-citizen etiquette in the hall, and thus also an example of how scouts could conduct themselves when in other countries.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:30 PM on July 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yes, you can, no matter what wikipedia says. It is possible, in the extreme, to be a citizen of a country you hold absolutely no allegiance to and actively and vehemently disclaim any allegiance to. In lesser degrees, it's easily possible for a person to hold some other country in higher esteem than the one of which he is a citizen, and to in fact be more loyal to that other country than to his own.

None of which is to say that anything like that fits this kid, who I don't know from Adam's housecat.

My major concern with the "No, you can't say the pledge or salute the flag, you must instead stand there silently and Be Different from everyone else" idea is that forcing someone to single himself out as Different and Foreign when he does not wish that is, at base, a fundamentally rude way to treat a guest, just as much as forcing him to do so would be.

The kid says he's comfortable going along with the American kids, with whatever that means to him. Really, who the hell are you to second-guess that?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:40 PM on July 24, 2009


I am an American, born in America, and I have never heard of anyone putting their hand over their heart a la Pledge of Allegiance while singing The Star-Spangled Banner. I'm interested to know where in the US this is the custom, because it's new to me.

Also, the "some cretins might beat him up" people should be reminded that the events in question are Boy Scout events. Boy Scouts are not going to beat up someone who isn't reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, y'all.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:49 PM on July 24, 2009


At baseball games
posted by kathrineg at 12:56 PM on July 24, 2009


ROU_Xenophobe: I think everyone here acknowledges that a lightning bolt will not come out of the sky and strike someone dead if they salute a foreign flag or put their hand over their heart during a foreign national anthem just to be polite. No one will be extradited or arrested for doing so

What we are saying is that it's completely appropriate, respectful, and utterly ordinary not to do so.
posted by muddgirl at 1:12 PM on July 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Unless you plan on switching countries, you can't pledge your allegiance to a sovereign (or, in the weird case of the US, a flag) other than yours.

I'm going to nitpick here and disagree because of my personal history: I am german, I feel german, I'll always be german but I spent ten years in the states and I have grown to love them as much as germany (for different reasons but that's another story). I feel that I could pledge my allegiance to both countries because I would stand up and help my friends no matter what side they'd be on and I'd do it because of shared values and personal bonds. I would be their ally in peril. I would help preserve what I found worth preserving and I wouldn't feel fraudulent in promising or declaring so. I don't have to be a citizen in order to feel part of a society, that's just optional.

the only difference here is that these people are guests. they probably arrived a week earlier and will leave a week later. if they saw a burning, overturned vehicle at the side of the road they'd pull the driver out of it out of kindness to a stranger but not because they drive down this road all the time and this could be them. this is not their society. such intricate bonds seem rather close to impossible to form in such short time and thus a pledge of allegiance would be hollow if it came from them. they should not be made to salute because of the bitter taste that could leave with those in the know about their situation.
posted by krautland at 4:03 PM on July 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


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