SERIES | Intro | "I Pledge Allegiance to the Half-Masted Flag"


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This series of articles is about whether flying the national flag at half-mast is an appropriate response to mass shootings. In order to discuss this topic meaningfully, we’re going to zoom out a bit to situate the discussion within a broader cultural context. In other words, this series is not about gun control, per se, though that issue may touch on the discussion tangentially. We're coming at this question from another angle, which I hope will enable folks on either side of that debate to look at this issue with a fresh set of eyes.

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Disclaimers & Trigger Warnings:

This series began almost a year ago when, as I left my workplace one particular afternoon, walking past the flagpoles, I could not help but notice – to my acute irritation – that the flags were lowered to half-mast, again, for what seemed like the umpteenth time in recent memory. You might say I was triggered by the repeatedly diminished state of our national emblem.

Editorial note: During the period of months that I slowly pieced this article together, we were forced to endure this patriotic impotence twice more, galvanizing my desire to finish and publish this article. It also explains why the article just kept getting longer and became a series. Now back to our tale...

By coincidence, at just that moment, as I gazed once again upon the slackened state of our national emblem, one of the custodians happened to be standing nearby, attending to the flower beds. Just now, I almost wrote "gazed up" -- but the bottom tip of the flag was actually lower than my eye level, so I deleted the "up". As I shifted my gaze from the pole to the custodian, I realized he was already looking at me, perhaps thinking to himself, “See, he thinks it’s ridiculous too.”

I swept my arm upward dramatically in an exaggerated gesture of presentation and silent disgust, towards the flags. His tone mirrored my own sense exasperation, “I know!” he exclaimed, drawing out the "know" for emphasis. He went on to explain that it was in response to the most recent mass shooting, he thought, this time at a bank – a crime which prompted our state governor to issue an order mandating flags throughout the state be flown at half-mast for an entire week in memorial.

That statement left me somewhat kerfuffled. Don't get me wrong...a half-dozen people getting shot at a bank is a bad thing. But did that rank to the level of a national tragedy? I began looking in to the last few years of half-mast events and noticed a pattern. If we allow for holidays and the deaths of high-ranking government officials, pretty much all of the remaining instances were triggered by the same sort of event -- a mass shooting. And I realized the period of mourning for the mass shootings was disproportionately longer. That was the moment this series was born.

In the spirit of common decency, we delayed publication of this series of rants in deference to the affected families and communities who are directly impacted by these shootings. Although we will argue that lowering the flag for these shootings is ultimately a bad idea, it does not make those shooting any less tragic. Though this series is not about the shootings themselves, or about gun policy, there is a good reason lawyers don’t read the will until after the funeral is over. We hope this gesture of restrain will demonstrate our goodwill and reasonableness.

So, let us clarify once more that the focus here is the proper use and presentation of our national symbols, and to address the public abuse of same. This series of essays takes no explicit position on the question of gun rights or gun control or gun laws or the politics of mass shootings. It will be helpful for sensitive readers to fix this clearly in mind. One may object to the Social Security tax without hating grandma.

Here's how the series will play out:

  • Part 1 > we discuss the underlying civilizational rot from which this cultural cancer has grown.

  • Part 2 > we discuss how we got here, who is responsible, and why that matters.

  • Part 3 > we discuss the proper use of national symbols and their importance.

  • Part 4 > we draw parallels to the national anthem kneelers and show how that is simply another manifestation of the same cancer.

  • Part 5 > we conclude by offering some ideas about how to fix the problem.

If at any time during this series you find yourself getting offended, click here.

Blerkins
 
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Blerkins is an eclectic blog of scholarly reflection and cultural commentary for folks who still believe that Western civilization has merit; and that life is far too interesting to give up on, or waste on television.
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