Oh my. That is a big flag you got there, Camping World. Makes me want to stop by and pick up a bunkhouse travel trailer, 28 ft with a slideout please.
Just in time for Memorial Day 2019, we have a flag kerfuffle.
It would seem that the city of Statesville, NC isn’t a fan of the 40×80 flag fluttering outside the Camping World off I-77 and has filed a lawsuit against the company to take it down. They are also fining the company $50 a day.
The flag, the size of a floppy tennis court, violates the city’s 25×40 flag size ordinance. By half. An ordinance mind you, passed not long ago to accommodate Camping World, as the original one was I believe 8×12.
Camping World went all, “Yeah, nah” and ran the 80 footer up anyway.
So feelings got hurt, rules broken, Facebook posts made, petitions signed, militias called out (ok I added that), the works. And it feels familiar. This is not the first time a flag has flown in the face of some HOA or city ordinance, and it will not be the last.
We have a Camping World in the area, and car dealerships, that fly the tennis court flag, and honestly, ok. Great I guess. I fly one on the front of my house every day. Just not one I could use for a roof tarp after a tornado strike.
But here the discussion, always it seems, goes off the rails. It suddenly becomes about veterans and patriotism and rights and heroes, and AMERICA! And Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis fired off a Facebook post I’m sure you can track down detailing how there was no way they were taking the American flag down.
He hit every note. Great country, stand with us, etc, even getting a few exclamation points in for good measure. And people accordingly got worked up.
An issue over the size of something – the local ordinance apparently limits flags of any kind to 25×40 near roads – becomes a referendum on freedom, on American exceptionalism. Even now, someone reading this is getting sweaty and a little defensive thinking I’m cracking wise on the flag.
The point is simply this – our flag is a powerful powerful powerful image. It has people, depending on their location and world view, salute it, wear it, burn it, argue over it, hug it, love it, mock it, cry with it, die for it, and on and on. Even me typing the word “burn” made someone somewhere go, “no way brother” in their mind. It is an extremely powerful image.
Think of Iwo Jima, the WTC site, the Olympics, funerals for veterans. Even my mother heard these words at my father’s funeral as she was being presented a flag.
On behalf of the President of the United States, the Department of the Air Force, and a grateful nation; Our country’s flag is presented to you as a token of appreciation for years of honorable and faithful service by your loved one.
Our flag is a powerful symbol. It should be.
But lost in the furor is one detail. Nobody told Camping World they could not fly the American flag. Nobody. Not a single person. The content of the flag is not the issue. The only issue is the SIZE. Yet CEO Lemonis made it the issue. He understands the power of that image, and he flies those flags at 200+ stores around the country. He also understands that people will not bother with the details, and he will beat the city over the head with patriotism until they capitulate.
Which they will.
Were they to walk outside today and run a 40 foot wide American flag up the pole, the controversy ends. They are in compliance with a law, and we love our laws.
But they won’t.
So our flag, something we should love, respect and display, at least in my house, will become fodder for a false argument between a city and a business. The actual discussion over being in compliance with the law, well, that is not nearly much fun.
I mean, when was the last time you saw people at a political rally all waving a copy of the local zoning regulations and pledging to obey the law? Doesn’t happen.
I suppose the lesson is this. Our lives are built on perception of images. We see MEANING in images, and in the case of Old Glory, she, among images, might be the most powerful of all. I take a photo of my flag gloriously flapping on a spring day and people seeing it would react one way, but were I to take a photo of a flag simply laying in my yard, there would be a different reaction.
So it’s a simple leap to go from the actual real discussion over the size of a flag to suddenly it being a business being asked to turn its back on THE symbol of American freedom.
Were the flag simply an 80 foot Camping World logo on canvas, I doubt you would get 20 signatures on a petition to leave it up. But make it ole red white and blue, and brother we got a fight on our hands.
Now go fly your flags during Memorial Day Weekend, HOAs be dammed.
Small side bar – I am an Eagle Scout and one of the most awful days in my life was in 8th grade. We dedicated a new flag pole at my school and myself and another Scout were tasked with raising the flag.
The school gathered, and I and my friend, both with enormous stage fright, hooked the flag to the rope while the pledge was recited, and national anthem played, and hoisted it. A few seconds in, I glanced at a teacher who seemed aghast. I looked up and the flag was heading skyward, upside down.
See, we hooked it up correctly, but then began pulling in the wrong direction. I whispered to my friend about the goof and told him to stop, but with tears in his eyes and defeat on his face, he whispered back, “I can’t!” He just kept pulling the rope. That flag had to fly.
And up she went. And there she flew. Until later we went back out and corrected our mistake. Camping World and Statesville, sort it out people.