Charles Stangor

I’ve been thinking about the U.S. flag. Last week I covered a story on how the Girl Scouts “retire” used U.S. flags by carefully cutting them up and burning them.

I’ve also seen a lot of flags on TV as I followed the success of the U.S. women’s soccer team in the World Cup. And the 4th of July holiday has brought out even more. I woke up one morning to find hundreds of little flags planted along the streets around town.

Seeing so many flags used in so many different ways led me to wonder about flag rules and regulations. I knew you weren’t supposed to let them touch the ground, but could I get in trouble if I did? And is it OK to wear a flag hat or flag pants, or wrap yourself up in a flag to keep warm? And what about putting little flags all around town and leaving them there overnight?

So I checked it out and found that flag etiquette is regulated by a federal law known as the U.S. Flag Code, which was created in 1923.

I was right about touching the ground, but there are other things the flag shouldn’t touch, specifically “the floor, water, or merchandise.”

You might think the soccer fans weren’t following the code: “No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume.” But it turns out the costumes aren’t really flags, just symbols that look like flags, so that’s alright.

Putting flags along the highway is also OK, unless you think doing so would lead them to be “torn, soiled, or damaged in any way.” I’m assuming whoever planted them will, when they get dirty or torn, destroy them “in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”

And I didn’t see anything in the code about flying the flag at night – perfectly fine.

In the end I decided you should treat a flag the same way you treat a good friend. Respect it, don’t hurt it, and — perhaps most important — enjoy it.

Michael Cooper-White

In Senator Doug Mastriano’s column in this paper on Wednesday, the retired Army Colonel wrote of having barely escaped death during Desert Storm combat. “I believe I was saved by God, who answered the prayers of Pennsylvanians,” he wrote.

We can thank Mastriano for his service in the armed forces and uphold his right to espouse his religious convictions.

But I find troubling Mastriano’s apparent belief that God saved him to be our state senator. What about his fellow soldiers who died in combat? Didn’t they have life callings too, and didn’t God embrace their hopes and dreams as much as the senator’s?

I wonder how Mastriano’s sense of divine intervention falls on the ears of his constituents who have lost loved ones—in combat, to disease, by tragic accidents or suicide? Is his self-ordained mission (which he describes as to save us from “the radical ideologues and greedy bureaucrats” who will “run our state into the ground”) more important than theirs, his life more precious to God than the others?

Many faithful soldiers I have been privileged to know, especially those who have survived the horror of combat, understand their calling is to be peacemakers. And they humbly testify to a God who envisions “the abundant life” for every human being, who weeps at every death, and doesn’t regard some as more worth saving than others.

Holly Fletcher

Thanks to those who called or emailed about my Reporter’s Notebook last week. New PA license plates for those specific letters mentioned are being re-issued gradually but the process is expedited if/when you transfer tags to another vehicle or if your plate is deemed illegible.

I have “E” on my car plate, but it’s still legible, and I do not plan to transfer tags anytime soon, so I shall continue driving happily down the road until PennDOT sends me a new plate. And when they do, I hope they remember that part on the DMV website that reads “Once your (old) plate has been received by PennDOT, it will (then, and only then) be marked as a ‘dead tag’ on the vehicle record.”

In other news, I fear that our world is going to the toilet. Literally.

There is a museum in Japan that thinks poop is cute.

Many people think those little poop-shaped emojis with faces are adorable (I received an emoji mug for my last birthday because now I’m an ‘old fart’), but I think this museum is over the top.

Visitors are asked to sit on a colorful, non-functional toilet lined up against the wall. Music plays as the user pretends to “go” and then a brightly colored souvenir “poop” can be collected from inside the toilet bowl, to be taken home after the tour.

I can’t even believe I am typing this.

A ceiling-high poop sculpture on the main hall erupts every 30 minutes, spitting out little foam poops.

In another room, players use a projection-mapping game like “whack-a-mole” to stamp on and squash the most poops they can, or they can play a soccer video game where you kick a poop in the goal.

The funniest – or saddest – part is that the museum attracted more than 100,000 visitors in the first month after its opening in March.

It puts weird on a whole new level.

Jim Hale

Somehow, I forgot about the fireworks.

After working during the afternoon and evening of July 4, I left the Times and drove to Giant. (Kennie’s, which is closer to home for me and therefore my usual store, was closed.)

After I completed my shopping and rolled my cart out into the parking lot, the fireworks at Gettysburg College were gloriously visible despite being about a mile and a half away.

It was an unusual and interesting perspective. I love fireworks and usually get as close as possible.

One effect of distance is that the boom arrives long after the light has blossomed in the sky. There’s a metaphor there, especially on Independence Day.

When the Founders “brought forth on this continent a new nation conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” as a great sage once phrased it here, it was a shining moment in the story of the world.

The thunder of that explosive moment continues to roll through history. Let’s hope “government of the people, by the people, for the people” will always be re-illuminated by new flashes of brilliance.

D.K. Thomas

I’ve had it with the trash hauler Butler Township decided would be the best choice for its residents.

These garbage pick-up people have no concern for my belongings, namely my trash cans. They pull off the lids, give them a toss, and don’t care where the lids land. They grab the cans, dump them and give them a toss. Sometimes the cans actually land upright; more frequently they are on their sides.

If there happens to be snow on the ground, which around here doesn’t actually happen very often or at least often enough to suit me, the lids go skittering down the little hill that’s our yard. Sometimes they land on Quaker Run Road; other times they keep going across the road and end up at the railroad tracks behind the neighbor’s house.

We had just purchased a new metal can, set it out for the very first time, complete with a large bag in it all tied up so nothing would escape, as if the smaller kitchen-size trash bags that were also tied closed would get out and run away, and so the new can would stay clean, or at least relatively clean. The very first time it went to the curb those trash collectors dumped it, banged it against the side of the truck, which wasn’t necessary since there was nothing stuck that required a beating to get it out, and then tossed the shiny can back in the yard, complete with several new dents.

They smacked our one plastic can around so badly in the cold it broke. We ended up throwing it away, thus the reason for the new metal can.

We can’t win with this company.

If something falls out of a trash can, which is nearly impossible with ours since we have everything in large, tied closed bags inside the cans, but other places along our road it has happened, those fellows don’t bother to bend over, pick up whatever got loose, and toss it in the trash truck. No, they leave it for the wind or critters to carry off.

And, to add insult to injury, when this company sends our bill electronically, we get the bill one day, and a late notice payment reminder the very next day, every single time. No other business I’ve ever dealt with has demanded payment within 24 hours of a bill being sent.

Several years ago the Butler (and several other townships) dropped the tried-and true trash hauler we’d had for a Johnny-come-lately company offering a slightly lower fee. That was a disaster across the county, and got rather nasty before Butler (and others) broke their contracts and drop kicked that company to the curb, going back to good old Parks.

Once again, during the most recent round of contract negotiations (thank you Adams County, for nothing) this new waste hauler came along offering a good deal and numerous townships jumped on the bandwagon. We were only a short term into the contract when this trash company breached its agreement, cried poverty and upped the cost of picking up our refuse, which the municipalities OK’ed, falling prey to the wily ways of this greedy company and its shoddy (dare I say nefarious) practices.

We have a ways to go before trash contracts are a topic around the county again, but I sure hope Butler supervisors, and other municipal leaders, sit up and pay attention before signing on the dotted line with any group other than a tried-and-true business.

Hannah Pollock

On Friday, I had my first Gettysburg Re-enactment experience. I have driven through the Battlefield before with my Dad looking at the statues but have never been in town during peak tourist season in July.

Times Photographer Darryl Wheeler and I arrived at the encampments around 10 a.m. and I was impressed with the amount of people already seated in the stands and walking near the battlefield.

As we walked across the field of parked vehicles, I couldn’t help but notice the all of the different license plates. California, Florida, Oregon, Texas, the list could go on and on. I never really thought of Gettysburg as a destination for a vacation, but I guess you sometimes take for granted what is in your own backyard.

Friday was hot and humid, but that didn’t stop the enthusiasm of those at the event. We spoke with re-enactors, the organizers of the event, attendees and vendors. Everyone was very excited and happy to talk with me about the history behind the event.

Their passion for history was evident through their willingness to sit in camps without their cell phones, sleeping and living outside for the weekend.

Now is the re-enactor’s life the life for me? Certainly not. This reporter does not have the patience, love for history or camping skills to go back to 1863.

However, I do appreciate those that do.

It takes a lot of commitment to do what those re-enactors do, and I applaud them for their efforts.

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