According to Section 8(g) of the U.S. Flag Code, “The flag should never have placed upon it, nor any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.”
Many people have concluded that the code does not apply to altering the red, white and blue American flag into one that’s entirely black and white with the exception of a single blue stripe, or line, across the middle. Then again, some people have concluded that Section 8(d), which states that the flag should “never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery,” doesn’t apply to bikini bottoms or beach towels. And there are those who just don’t give a damn about Section 8(i), which prohibits using the flag “for advertising in any manner whatsoever.”
The “thin blue line” has a long, respectful history as a symbol of support for law enforcement, a profession in which men and women in blue uniforms put their lives on the line to protect citizens. It, however, also has referred to a “blue wall of silence” among some police regarding misconduct by fellow officers.
It is in more recent years that the “Thin Blue Line” flag has been displayed by law enforcement officers and certain ardent supporters. After all, if it’s acceptable for professional football players to take a knee during the playing of the national anthem, in disregard to the U.S. Flag Code, the “Thin Blue Line” flag should be acceptable as well.
Unfortunately, the “Thin Blue Line” flag has been co-opted by the “Blue Lives Matter” movement, which is a direct rebuttal to the “Black Lives Matter” movement against police brutality toward minorities. That is akin to the co-optation of the Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” flag, which symbolized unification of the original Thirteen Colonies against British imperial rule, by the so-called Tea Party, which champions disunity.
Geauga County Commissioner Ralph Spidalieri is very familiar with that. So it comes as no surprise that he would belligerently call for the resignation of Chardon School Superintendent Michael P. Hanlon Jr. Writing Sept. 1 on Geauga County Board of Commissioners letterhead, Mr. Spidalieri said that an Aug. 31 letter written by Dr. Hanlon “sickens me” and that the superintendent’s “behavior will not be tolerated.”
Let me repeat: It is unfortunate that the “Thin Blue Line” flag has been co-opted by the “Blue Lives Matter” movement. That flag was flown alongside the pro-slavery Confederate flag by white supremacists at the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and elsewhere in opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement.
But that’s what’s happened, and that’s why the “Thin Blue Line” flag has become the “Blue Lives Matter” flag, which is undeniably political.
And that’s why the Aug. 31 letter to the Chardon school community by Dr. Hanlon was appropriate. He made it clear in his letter that the display of the “Thin Blue Line” flag by a Chardon High School football player during pre-game activities three days earlier did not appear to be motivated by racism. It was intended as support for local police. But Dr. Hanlon pointed out that some members of the community could interpret it as a racially motivated display – which they did.
There can be no rational denial of the display’s political repercussions, which Mr. Spidalieri’s response made perfectly clear. The subsequent cover photo of the flag installed on the Geauga County Prosecutor’s Office Facebook page added an explanation point to the political aspect. Take that, Black Lives Matter!
Dr. Hanlon rationally, compellingly and compassionately explained why political displays will not be part of future pre-game activities.
He’s not the one who should resign.
Mr. Lange is the retired editor of the Times.