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June 18, 2021

5/19/2021 9:35:00 AM
What is half-staff flag meaning

Dear Editor;
The flag is at half-staff. Again. Does it refer to those killed yesterday? Or last week, last month? And just how is one supposed to respond to the sight? Are we being called upon to honor someone, stand in solidarity or just feel sad? For most of us, the emotional response will be nil. Even the most sacred expression can become, after countless repetitions, no more than a mindless litany.
In any case, today I am unable to dismiss the half-mast flag as irrelevant. Today it wrests my attention as a symbol of cowardice, of failure. A flag of surrender to an aggressive minority unable to see past its own fear.
It was not until 1954, when the Eisenhower administration established a formal protocol, that the lowered flag came to be broadly accepted as a symbol of tragic loss to the public, as a whole. Since then, we have seen it employed to mark the passing of presidents, astronauts, police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty, and recently, the victims of COVID. Over the past several decades though, the incidence of flag lowering has been categorically dominated by mass murder, which most often has resulted from mass shootings.
Everyone understands that such shootings are the intersection of deep-seated anger and unbridled access to the instruments of mass murder. As a society we have made some serious attempts to address anger and other motives. Yet against the aspirations of an overwhelming majority of Americans, we have seen only occasional, feeble gestures toward controlling the means.
At this moment, every elected official in every town, city, county and state must be held accountable and required to act to end the carnage. There is no doubt that meaningful action can be undertaken at every level. It should begin not in the lowering of flags to half-staff, but in refusal to raise them again. Until Congress proves willing to assume responsibility for the runaway proliferation of weapons designed expressly for the efficient killing of human beings, every flag in our nation should remain at half-staff.
In only this way, can we assure that the flag at half-staff regains meaning - not as a passive expression of hopeless mourning, but as a demand for solutions.
Michael Brandt
Arena, WI

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