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Thread: Flags at half staff

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    #1

    Question Flags at half staff

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    Please know I am not disrespecting the horrid event in Vegas, this is just a "why" question about protocol.

    I have often wondered, why do we fly flags at half staff when a group of people die but not when one person dies? Is the life of the one person less important? If 6 people die in a pile up on the interstate, flags are not lowered. What is the distinction?

    If members of our military die a day before one of these mass shooting, flags remain the same.
    Mass shooting at a concert, bar, etc., and flags at half staff.

    One died defending our freedom, one died drinking and listening to music.

    Can someone explain the rationale to me? I have read the flag etiquette and while I understand the sitting Pres has the power to order it, I don't quite understand the "why" and "when" part.

    (I am not asking the "why" part in relation to Trump specifically- that is a whole different question - lol)
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    #2
    Idk much about flag etiquette but regardless of what a person was doing when they died, 59 people is gonna have a way bigger impact on a community than one soldier. This reminds me of when people bitch on Facebook about how when a celebrity dies, its national news but a soldier dying doesn't make the news. Well, people know the celebrity and the soldier's death, while sad, isn't going to make an impact outside of people who personally knew them. Maybe it's similar?
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    #3
    Half staff tends to be something that you see when the death being marked is one of particularly wide-ranging significance. Of course, the death of any one person is shattering to their family and friends, but...

    Say a soldier dies. It’s tragic, but outside of the small circle of his family, his friends, perhaps the town where he grew up, it’s unlikely that he would be mourned. Outside of that circle, who would know him well enough? Maybe his old elementary school will have the flag at half mast for him, but no one else.

    Compare that to the death of someone much more widely known and loved, or a group who by sheer numbers all dying at once will end with their deaths all over the news. That’s a much bigger splash.

    Having the flag at half mast for a day in one small town is easy. Having the flag at half mast everywhere, as it would be if the President authorised it, requires that everywhere knows what it means and why it’s being done, or else why make the gesture?
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    #4
    People are dying so constantly that the flag would have to always be at half mast if we lowered it anytime anyone died.
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    #5
    The flag is flown at half staff when political figures die or to signify the country is in mourning.

    A couple of years ago when a terrorist attacked the recruiting station in Chattannoga, TN, killing 4 Marines and 1 sailor, it took President Obama a while to finally decide to lower the flag at the white house (I think it took him about a week). Honestly, if it weren't for all the bad press he got for it, I'm not sure that he would have.

    I can't tell you for sure why we as a country might collectively mourn a shooting of a group of civilians but not a group of service members. Maybe people feel it's different when the service member is killed in the line of duty because it's risk they took when they signed up... I don't know. I think the media also plays a big role on what deaths are considered important and newsworthy.




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    #6
    Quote Originally Posted by LifeHappens View Post
    Please know I am not disrespecting the horrid event in Vegas, this is just a "why" question about protocol.

    I have often wondered, why do we fly flags at half staff when a group of people die but not when one person dies? Is the life of the one person less important? If 6 people die in a pile up on the interstate, flags are not lowered. What is the distinction?

    If members of our military die a day before one of these mass shooting, flags remain the same.
    Mass shooting at a concert, bar, etc., and flags at half staff.

    One died defending our freedom, one died drinking and listening to music.

    Can someone explain the rationale to me? I have read the flag etiquette and while I understand the sitting Pres has the power to order it, I don't quite understand the "why" and "when" part.

    (I am not asking the "why" part in relation to Trump specifically- that is a whole different question - lol)


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    #7
    Quote Originally Posted by rayfinkle View Post
    yeah......



    you're right, they died DRINKING AND LISTENING TO MUSIC. There is absolutely no reason they should have died. They were enjoying a concert. They weren't in a war zone, they weren't in combat, they didn't sign on the dotted line, they were in Las Vegas at a country concert doing what any normal person should be able to do but instead they were brutally gunned down. THAT is why the flags were lowered. Because it's unexpected and horrific, and life changing. It's national mourning because people around the country knew someone there. They came from all over.

    Also, generally when soldiers die the community they came from will lower the flags in that area or that state. When we lost someone in my hometown they had a "parade" for him, and lowered the flags, it just wasn't a national thing.


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    #8
    The way I look at it .. if the question is why do "we" lower the flag when some people die and not others, I think it depends on who "we" is. Lots of people gave examples, and I have seen them to, of when local communities will lower flags if a particular tragedy hits close to home. Maybe if one servicemember dies the whole nation won't lower the flags, but perhaps his hometown or the area where he was stationed would. That is his community and those most affected by the loss, and they take that action.

    Mass shootings like the one in Las Vegas are not localized in their influence though. The whole nation was paying attention to what happened and was affected, so the national community as a whole (or most places that I have seen anyway) chose to lower the flags.

    I remember similar discussions coming up when Whitney Houston died. I don't think we lowered flags for her in Texas, at least that I noticed, but I believe in the state of New Jersey they did fly them at half mast. Again, one community was more influenced by her than another.

    I will take you at your word when you say you don't mean to be disrespectful, but contrasting the death of someone who was gunned down in a public place minding their own business vs. someone who "died defending our freedom" very much sounds like a value statement and if I were personally closer to the tragedy in Vegas I would probably be upset by that. I have never thought of a flag being flown at half mast as characterizing any loss as more "important" than another and I think that is probably not the best road to go down. While all losses are important, some have more hard-hitting or more widespread influence than others, and that's where the issue of flags being at half mast comes into play IMO.
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    #9

    Question Just curious

    I am not saying the flag should not be lowered, I am just wondering what the guidelines are. Just my natural curiosity.

    I worked a case in the southern part of a southern state where there was a shooting between two rival gangs in a "bar" not a night club or concert hall, but a true bar. Because the doorman did a crappy job of keeping the firearms out of the bar, (yes, this bar specifically had a doorman to check patrons for firearms with handheld metal detectors, traditional pat downs and bag checks) there were more handguns in the place than one can imagine. So many that it was impossible for a reconstructionist to be sure who fired from where. Dozens of people went to the hospital, multiple people were killed.
    No flags at half staff. Not all people were local but I don't know if any were outside the USA.

    Did any of those deaths impact the guy next door more/less than the death of a famous person? Are we really impacted when a famous person dies if we did not know them? I think of that commercial about Millie Dresselhaus.

    (If these stats are accurate) 3,287 people die in car wrecks each day around the globe. There was no reason for them to die. They come from different cities, states and countries. There are people mourning them around the globe each day.
    No lowered flags.

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    #10
    Quote Originally Posted by LifeHappens View Post
    I am not saying the flag should not be lowered, I am just wondering what the guidelines are. Just my natural curiosity.

    I worked a case in the southern part of a southern state where there was a shooting between two rival gangs in a "bar" not a night club or concert hall, but a true bar. Because the doorman did a crappy job of keeping the firearms out of the bar, (yes, this bar specifically had a doorman to check patrons for firearms with handheld metal detectors, traditional pat downs and bag checks) there were more handguns in the place than one can imagine. So many that it was impossible for a reconstructionist to be sure who fired from where. Dozens of people went to the hospital, multiple people were killed.
    No flags at half staff. Not all people were local but I don't know if any were outside the USA.

    Did any of those deaths impact the guy next door more/less than the death of a famous person? Are we really impacted when a famous person dies if we did not know them? I think of that commercial about Millie Dresselhaus.

    (If these stats are accurate) 3,287 people die in car wrecks each day around the globe. There was no reason for them to die. They come from different cities, states and countries. There are people mourning them around the globe each day.
    No lowered flags.

    Road Crash Statistics
    Where and when was this bar shooting??

    Like idrather said, it is when a political figure dies or country is in mourning. For instance, in 2012, flags were half mast when Neil Armstrong died. He was a hero for our country. We mounrned his loss and celebrated his life. Therefore, flags at half mast.

    While deaths on the road impact that person and their family, the whole country does not mourn their loss. It is felt on a personal level, rather than coast to coast.

    However, when children are senselessly killed at an elementary school in sandy Hook or 56 people at a concert, our country takes a moment and mourns a senseless act.
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