Thursday, November 15, 2012

Grand Old Upside Down Flag

Obama's re-election didn't go over well here in this Red, rural part of California. Obama isn't very well liked. I happen to know this because the Obama lawn signs I placed here in the Foothills all disappeared within hours of setting them up. Romney signs were left unmolested.

Anthony Watts, the climate change denying Chico meteorologist who also writes a popular climate change denying web-site (Watts Up With That) and was featured recently on PBS's News Hour, posted on Facebook a flag being flown upside down at half mast, in Chico. His post seemed to be encouraging this sort of behavior. Evidently this is a new protest: called a sign of "distress"--folks on the right used to think it was sacrilege to fly a flag upside down back when the Vietnam War was under protest. Now that a black man has been re-elected to the White House, those same "honor the flag" types seem to think it is an appropriate expression of First Amendment Rights.

In Red Bluff, California--a town on the valley floor 40 miles north of Chico--the hamlet's flag custodian, Vern Raglin, decided he would fly the flag upside down the morning after Obama won the election. He did this on property owned by the city. This caused quite a stir; a photo was taken and published in the Red Bluff paper.

Red Bluff is where John Brown's widow settled after John Brown was executed prior to the Civil War. Tom Hanks, the actor, also grew up there.  Today, Red Bluff is home to a lovely theatre that Tom Hanks helped to renovate (Hanks said he did it because it is the theatre where he saw the original "Planet of the Apes"). Red Bluff is also home to a newspaper that publishes some of the most outlandish opinions in California. To be a Democrat is synonymous (I kid you not) with being a Communist for some of these Neanderthals whose letters are regularly published in the paper.

Lately, the Red Bluff Daily has been all a flutter with opinions about Vern Raglin's impulsive act. The paper's editor, Chip Thompson, wrote a nasty defense of the public protest; equating flying the flag upside down with those Vietnam War protesters who put flowers into the barrels of National Guard Troop's guns.

One of the paper's reporters, a snot-nosed bloated kid, said that flags are desecrated everyday, so it is no big deal. In fact, those who criticised the public demonstration on public property were just as worthy of being damned: "Did Mr. Raglin disrespect the flag? Of course he did, but all those who chastised him for doing so were just as disrespectful. Our ideals are only hurt when we cheaply reflect them."

My view? Symbols have power. Flying the flag upside down in protest to Obama's re-election is the moral equivalent of burning a cross on the White House lawn. It is a racist response to a campaign that was laden with race metaphors. I find it to be a disgusting act that describes more about the protester than the protest itself. It is similar to George Wallace standing on the steps of the University, blocking the entrance of those brave black students who were asserting their God given Constitutional rights.

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