This Flag Thing

Hey, my city, Statesville, NC, has made the news! Some of my Facebook friends, even those who don’t live anywhere near this area, have made posts about it. You see, there is this big flag flying at a local business, it is bigger than the Statesville city ordinance allows, and the owner of that business says he will not take it down.

It’s created a lot of drama and generated a lot of national publicity for both this business and our city. Statesville is thought by some to be “anti-American flag” (including many in our community.)

For those who have never been here, or have been and not noticed, I’ve lived here the bulk of my life and have found it to be a town full of patriots, many with amazing stories to tell. And there are a heck of a number of flags here.

Many of you who don’t live here, and some who do, see this simply as a fight over the size of a flag. To others, this issue is not currently about the flag, or even about the ordinance.

Let me go on record and say this first…..I tend to usually be on the side of property owners rights, both private and commercial. I purposely do not live in a neighborhood with a homeowner’s association, because I don’t like the idea that my neighbors could dictate what I do on my land. I guarantee there are times a homeowner’s association would be sending me notices to change something, because their priorities are not my priorities. I believe I shouldn’t have to explain these things to them or make decisions about my property based on what the neighbors think. But if I lived in one if these neighborhoods I would have to be compliant with their wishes or face the consequences. Even not living in one, I still have to abide by local ordinances….and, if caught breaking them, I pay the consequences.

When it gets down to it I don’t really care what size flag someone flies or what kind of sign they have outside their business. I’m fine with that being their choice. Yes, even at the expense of my property value.

I also don’t like the large flags that fly alongside interstates. They distract me. Not blaming anyone for this….it is my responsibility to be aware of this quality in myself and take extra care while driving by one. Recently I was driving through Greensboro, it was windy and rainy, and the flag was all contorted. It bothered me. It was distracting. I also get distracted by someone broken down on the interstate, so once again I don’t necessarily feel that government needs to protect me from myself. I have never been in an accident as a result of either of these circumstances.

I don’t feel that the size of the flag flown shows anything about the person or business that flies it. To me people and businesses show what kind of American they are based on how they treat their fellow Americans (and visitors to our country) and how they respect our country….not whether they fly a flag of any size.

I admittedly have a preference of flags at the standard size. We as a country and a people are at our best when we’re not showing how great we are in the big gestures, but in our humility. Still, some people like big gestures.

The current elected officials have elected not to change the ordinance at this time. The owner of the business has elected to continue to fly the flag that is out of compliance. (Note for those not familiar with the ordinance….the flag must be 25’x40′ or under. The flag flying out of compliance is 40’x80′.) The owner of the business is aware of the penalty ($50 a day) and has said he is willing to pay this. Well, he did say that at one time…. now I hear his lawyers are saying he’s not. Whatever. He can change his mind at any time. His decision. His consequences.

I dislike several of the laws and ordinances that we have in Statesville. I’m still miffed about the beautiful murals the city required be removed. I loved them and thought they added character. I think it should be up to the building owner to decide what art appears (or stays) on their building, But once again, the owners of those properties were made to comply with the ordinance that addresses murals. They did. I am simplifying this story because it is not relevant here. Or is it?

If we become a society that allows people to pick and choose what laws and ordinances they obey, all become worthless. To me that is the main issue here. Companies or individuals that break the laws or ordinances, especially those who do so knowingly and willingly and even daringly, may have to pay consequences. Leaders who don’t enforce these ordinances and laws, especially just because there is national attention, are setting up for chaos.

I’d like our local leaders to review all current laws and ordinances on a fairly regular basis to see whether they need to stay on the books. Which really protect and promote our community and its businesses and people, and which hinder it? What’s important to keep and what can we throw out? I’d love them to keep the number at a minimum. But whatever we keep, let’s enforce.

Profits for Gander are currently down. The free publicity generated by the ruckus in Statesville (and those they have participated in elsewhere around the country) hasn’t yet done enough to help. Though personally I think it is a genius marketing strategy, so maybe time will tell and profits will bolster as a result. I’m personally not calling it “that camper place” anymore, so it has given brand name recognition to at least one person. Though I’m not in the market for a camper/RV at this time.

But really….wouldn’t a 25’x40′ flag do the same thing as the current one, plus allow them to use it for doing things like flying it at half mast? (The height of the current flagpole evidently does not allow this.) One of our local car dealerships has a large flag that is compliant with the ordinance and I have no problems seeing it. My eyes are good….I’d probably also notice several of standard size.

Should the ordinance change? I’d be in favor. Should it change right now? I’m fine with them holding strong for a while. Maybe look at a few other ordinances that impact more than one business, those local businesses that are currently being compliant and respectful to their detriment, and change those first.

To the Statesville City Council members, thank you for serving. You take a lot of flack for not only this, but other issues (many outside the scope of your power), and I believe most (if not all) of you try to make the best decisions for our community, based on what you know. I don’t agree with all of your decisions, don’t always respect what you say and do, but I still respect that you volunteered to serve in this way and were voted into public office in our community. I’m not a city resident so I didn’t vote for you, but as someone who loves this city you do get my attention and thanks.

And to Gander RV/Camping World, I also wish you great success. Thank you for adding to the tax basis of our community, employing some of our people, and operating a retail outlet for those who love camping. While I personally don’t care if you fly a flag that reaches the heavens, I also don’t believe you show yourself to be a better patriot if you do. Instead of being the company with the biggest flags, why not spend your money on community compliant flags and be the company who respects the ordinances of the communities you do business in (while fighting lawfully to change them if you disagree)? Why not show your allegiance to our country by gifting homeless veterans with a RV in which to live? It seems like a natural fit. I’m sure our local-based charity Purple Heart Homes could help you get that going. If you’re already doing something of that nature, maybe you can swing the national discussion that way. I love hearing stories of corporations with kind hearts who really make a difference in the world.

And truly I think the ordinance will change in the future. Just not now. Because for now, it’s not about the flag.

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Some Rambling on Politics

I’m not someone who identifies with any political party.  I registered Republican….back when I was 18 and thought that I needed to.  I’ve just been too lazy to change it….and not sure that it matters anyway.  (Though will gladly make the time to do it if it means less political phone calls!)  I really struggle because I don’t like a lot of government intervention….I don’t think they do a particularly great job and they seem to breed a system that operates inefficiently and stagnantly.  Instead of being leaders, they lag behind.  But in a world where people don’t always do the right thing, I see why we think we need governing.  And after attending more County Commissioner and City Council meetings than the average citizen, I can understand why so much doesn’t get done.  That is not always the fault of our elected officials.  Often it is the people.  I wish we could just change people, but unfortunately laws seem to be the only things that work in certain instances.  And laws often create bigger….but not necessarily better….. government.   And government and creative problem solving seem to be mutually exclusive these days.

And since I am doing some rambling, here are some of my thoughts on politics at the moment….

Laws I Want to See Passed that Could Gain My Undying Vote for Their Champions

  • No unsolicited phone calls.  At all.  Ever.  I pay for the privilege of phone service…..why should anyone else be able to call me on them without my permission?  People are allowed to call me at any time, regardless of whether it is convenient for me to answer, regardless of what is going on in my life.  It just has to be convenient with them.  Is that fair?  I don’t care if I have done business with them in the past.  I don’t care if they are a charity.  I don’t care if I am a distinguished alumni of their institution.  I don’t care if I once had a magazine or newspaper subscription with them.  And I especially don’t care if you are running for public office.  If I am paying for the service, I should get to say who is allowed to call me. And I shouldn’t have to opt out….the standard should be no unsolicited calls, and we should opt in if we want them to call us. Maybe have it on the same level as a Facebook friend request.  I think that would make life much nicer for telemarketers, too, since they would not be met with the wrath of people like me.  So I am not being entirely selfish here. 
  • No littering on my property.  That means Dominos and those stupid plastic cups.  That means the phone book people.  That means flyers left on my door.  It’s annoying that I have to clean them up.  And it’s annoying for them to advertise to criminals when I am not at home. 
  • No door to door solicitation.  Once again, not for selling me things, collecting for charities, inviting me to events….I don’t care.  When you are a single female living alone, it’s just creepy when a stranger comes to call.  Or even someone you only know slightly. Let my home be my sanctuary.
  • No use of tax dollars to get things done when they can get volunteers to do the same work.  Whatever happened to community spirit?  Tell me we’re having a paint party at North Iredell High School (my alma mater)……I’ll do my best to be there.  (And I will encourage the painters that show up and do things like clean walls and paint brushes, since I am the world’s worst painter and it is for the sake of all that I will not actually paint.)  Students and their parents should be there working together to make it a nice environment.   It should be fun.  A place it is a privilege to be.  All over town we have so many amazing craftsmen and tradesmen who I believe would be willing to meet some of the needs of our county and city and save us all tax dollars in the bargain.  In return we could spread the word that they did it….and maybe help their business as we or our friends hire people for different things.  We have retirees who retired too young and have time on their hands they may be willing to donate to a good cause.  I’m just saying that before we spend money, we look for alternate ways to provide the service.  They say Americans are lazy and won’t take the time to show up to do some of these things…. and I am not saying that there is not a bit of validity to that statement.  But are we selling ourselves short?    Why can’t we change the idea of what it means to be an American?  I look at our mayor, Costi Kutteh.  That man shows up.  Not because he is mayor….he was doing it before that and does it whether anyone else is around to notice.  I am confident he will die volunteering.  We need more people like him.  Let’s spread a little of that spirit around.  And let’s vote for people who are out and around and making the community a better place before they run for political office.

My Advice to Politicians
As you run for office, be a grownup.  If you can’t say something nice about your opponent,  don’t make a personal attack in a commercial or at a forum.  Not that some of the dirty dogs that run don’t deserve some of that to be public knowledge, but it’s best for you not to be the one to reveal.  You belittle yourself when you do.  But tell us about yourself and why we should vote for you.  Or have others who are willing to speak up for you.  And if you are running for office, it seems like maybe it would be good if you had actually attended a meeting of the group you are about to join.  Before you put your ring in the hat.  There are some people who run year after year and I have never seen them at a meeting when they are not running for office.  That speaks to me.  Unfortunately a lot of you citizens are not attending these meetings either, so you have not noticed.  But drop in from time to time.  You’ll learn a lot.  And sometimes get disillusioned.  And bored.  Seems to me way too much discussion goes on behind closed doors….because it doesn’t always seem to make it to the floor during commissioners and city council meetings.  I don’t think that is how it is supposed to be.  God bless those who open their mouths and share their opinions.  May get them in trouble with some voters, but I appreciate them for doing what we voted them in to do.  I love those who don’t run only to prove they can win an election….but instead serve because they want to represent their neighbors and make our community better. And they try to know their neighbors and the people they represent…. and don’t just assume their opinion speaks for all.  Sometimes they actually speak for others and leave their own opinions at home.  That is a public servant.

How I Will Vote
I love that our country is a democracy.  I am proud of that.  I believe God has given us the freedom of choice and I respect that He knew what He was doing when He did that.  I like when our government attempts to do the same thing.  I believe that each adult citizen comes before the government as an individual, and rights should be granted to each equally.  I will try to vote for that.  I am a Christian and certainly that influences how I vote.  I trust that if I try to look into the face of God as I vote, that my vote will be right and significant.

I’m still trying to figure out who I will be voting for in this election.  I will take a little time with my decision to consider everything I can.  I generally do not vote for all members of one political party and may even vote for someone who has opinions different from me….if I think those opinions represent a group that needs to be heard.  I try to always vote for a person that I believe loves our community and its people.  But like a lot of elections lately, I am going to be voting mostly on hearsay and speculation, on carefully crafted speeches and well done internet sites.  And that discourages me about myself.  I want to know some of these candidates better.  When they are not running.  And feel confident when I vote that they will represent the principles I personally believe in.  What I read in newspapers, that which I can find on the internet, all is written with bias.  Even those who attempt to write without bias, cannot escape their own upbringing and experience.  So while my voting may not live up to my own ideals for myself, I will still make a good attempt.  And hope that next time, I will feel more prepared.

And by the way, those of you who don’t vote….you’re not just laying down your right to criticize in the future.  You are weakening our democracy.  Do a bit of the work that is the privilege we have as citizens of this country, pay attention to the issues and vote.  Let me know if you need me to show you how to get a sample ballot online so you can get started!

My reasons for voting for or against things always seem a bit different than those of my friends.  I may vote for the same thing as you, but for entirely different reasons.  And I like that.  It brings life to a democracy.  But as I hear people talk, it is just one more thing that makes me remember that I just may be a bit unusual!  My ballot probably won’t look like yours.  But that is OK and good.  In the box, but out of the box.  Again!