Google the expression”Flag Etiquette,” followed by the name of a country, and that country’s Flag Code immediately appears. But not for Belize.
Generally speaking, the Flag Etiquette, also known as the Flag Code, contains the rules governing how the nation’s flag is displayed: on buildings, from the ground, on motor vehicles and ships, in auditoriums, parades, across roadways and on ceremonial occasions. In other words, there is a right way and a wrong way to do it.
The code begins by establishing the rationale for its existence. For instance, the Jamaican Flag Etiquette states: “The flag is…the sacred emblem of the nation to be paid due reverence and devotion by all its citizens.” (emphasis mine) There follows a brief provenance, as well as a list of display times, and places where the flag must be displayed at such times. The “Don’ts” of flag display, follows. So, before anyone decides to fly the flag, the Code should be consulted.
Here is a sampling of matters typically found in a Code taken from the Barbados Flag Etiquette, and summarized for brevity. The flag—
• Should not touch things below it—plants, vehicles, water, the ground etc.
• Must not be displayed on a motor vehicle except on days of special significance
• If flown after sunset it must be illuminated.
• Must be on the speakers’ right when displayed in an auditorium
• Mast must be painted white
• Should not be faded and, if torn, should be repaired before being hoisted
• If flown on land, the mast is to be upright, centrally positioned and conspicuous.
• May be flown by citizens only on days of special significance; and,
• Must be flown daily from government buildings and schools when in session.
There is also this note of interest taken from the Papua New Guinea code: the flag should be “…hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously.”
The takeaway from these codes is that the flag of a country is its supreme national symbol, deserving of the highest level of patriotic awe and adoration. It would seem, therefore, that an independent nation might want to disseminate its Flag Etiquette with speed and alacrity. But thirty-nine years in, and independent Belize still doesn’t have a formalized Flag Code. Why? I think it might have to do with the flag itself:
• Perhaps the flag, like our colonial past, is just that: a worrisome legacy. It cannot be done away with, so we simply abide it.
• What is not so easily overlooked is the wreath of Scorn-the-Earth. Any farmer or villager will swear to the disgust they feel if this perfidious plant parasite attacks a prized mango. Why put it on our flag? They muse in wonderment!
• Could it be that our nationalism has missed the mark? Those impotent triggers—the paddles, the axes and the two work-weary hewers of wood—in our coat of arms, perhaps? We seem not to have the jolting amps needed to rouse our slumbering sub umbra patriotism to a pulsing jubilancy.
• Or maybe subconsciously we continue to bristle at the thought that it was not accord but compromise that birthed our flag?
Whatever the reason, our devotion and reverence for the flag continue to flag insidiously, the Flag Code held trapped in subliminal collateral ignominy. It’s like having a flagpole but no flag to fly!
While we wait then, for the Belize Code, we must make do with the now familiar response to our flag etiquette questions: “Jus’ as’ somebody da dih Ministry.”1
1 Just ask someone at the Ministry.