An American Military Man Warns About The Magic Potion

A signal of distress
For hundreds of years, inverted flags have been harnessed as a signal of distress. Hoisting the ensign upside-down was also a potentially covert way in which sailors might share that their ship had been taken by hostile forces and was being maneuvered nefariously. The United States Flag Code expresses the idea concisely, stating that a flag should never be flown upside-down, “except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.”

Protest and dissent
There is one other circumstance in which you might come across a flag flown upside-down intentionally, and that is as a statement of protest. This gesture might be made as a display of dissent against a standing government or disapproval of a country’s foreign policy. However, such a deliberate insult should not be made flippantly. In some countries, displaying the local flag upside-down without good reason is considered a finable offence, and may land the vessel’s owner in uncomfortably hot water.

Meaning around the world
The significance of an inverted flag does vary around the world, with some counting it as a legitimate SOS signal, while others may not recognize this gesture’s intention. In some countries, such as Thailand or Japan, inverting the flag does not change its appearance at all. In other cases, inverting a flag may simply transform it into another – such as between the Polish and Indonesian flags, which are vertically mirror images of each other.

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