Yesterday I noticed that some of the flags in Billings were at half mast, while others were flying full.  To be honest, I wasn't even sure why the flags were flying at half mast, but whatever the reason, they should all be flown one way or the other...not a mix of the two.

According to the official flag code:

"by order of the President, the flag shall be flown at half-staff upon the death of principal figures of the United States Government and the Governor of a State, territory, or possesion, as a mark of respect to their memory. In the event of the death of other officials or foreign dignitaries, the flag is to be displayed at half-staff according to Presidential orders, or in accordance with recognized customs or practices not inconsistent with law.

We now seem to do this in response to national tragedies of other sorts too.  I don't want to belittle the deaths of police in Baton Rouge, I just don't remember this sort of tragedy honored in this way.  Here was the order from the President:

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

As a mark of respect for the victims of the attack on police officers perpetrated on Sunday, July 17, 2016, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, by the authority vested in me as President of the United States by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, July 22, 2016. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this eighteenth day of July, in the year of our Lord two thousand sixteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-first.

BARACK OBAMA

 

Here are the previous 6 half mast orders from the President:

  • US - 7/15/2016
    US Flags at Half Staff Honoring the Victims of the Attack in Nice, France
  • US - 7/8/2016
    US Flags at Half-Staff Honoring the Victims of the Attack in Dallas, Texas
  • US - 6/12/2016
    US Flags at Half-Staff Honoring Victims of Attack in Orlando
  • US - 5/30/2016
    US Flags at Half-Staff from Sunrise Until Noon for Memorial Day
  • US - 5/15/2016
    US Flag at Half Staff - Peace Officers Memorial Day
  • US - 3/22/2016
    US Flags at Half Staff Honoring the Victims of the Attacks in Brussels, Belgium

I'm not sure when things changed, but it seems as though the half mast tradition is no longer reserved for "principal figures of government" as the flag code states.  My concern is that by doing it this often, it's meaning is trivialized and Americans will eventually become immune to what it is meant to symbolize.