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Flagpole Politics

posted: 12.11.13 by Donna Winchell

When I see flags flying at half-staff, I usually know who is being honored. I’ve discovered that there is a web site that I can go to if I don’t. I wondered when I first saw the flags lowered recently if Nelson Mandela was the honoree because I wasn’t sure if the president ever issued a proclamation ordering flags be lowered to mark the death of someone who was not an American.

Apparently my local sheriff, Rick Clark, was also wondering the same thing, and now South Carolinians are once again cringing at the national attention being focused on our state because of one of our elected officials. It wasn’t enough that our former governor went AWOL on the Appalachian Trail with his Argentinian mistress or that U. S. senate candidate Alvin Greene really thought that the state could solve its economic problems by producing action figures of—wait for it—Alvin Greene. Now our sheriff has refused to lower the flag at his office because Mandela is not American.

Final exam review:  What are the claims, support, and warrants in this argument?

Clark has stated that he feels the American flag should be lowered only for Americans who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. He feels it is fine to lower the flag for Mandela at the American embassy in South Africa but not at the sheriff’s office in Pickens County. There are no consequences for refusing to abide by the president’s proclamation because it is essentially just a guide. Lowering the flag for a foreigner is not without precedent, however. George Bush so honored Pope John Paul II, Bill Clinton did the same for Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and President Lyndon Johnson for Winston Churchill.

One critic of Clark’s decision pointed out that it was the first time that a black president had requested that flags be lowered to half-staff for a black foreign leader. Consider the warrant underlying that observation. Also consider the stereotyping of South Carolinians that it has led to.  On the other hand, consider the possibility that Clark is not a racist, but rather that he is a zealous American who may take more seriously than most the symbolism of the lowered flag.

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