Richmond is on a roll

People across the commonwealth, and the country, are laughing at Richmond once again. And for the record, we are not laughing with Richmond, we are laughing at Richmond.

The city which drafted, debated and passed a lengthy resolution demanding that President Bush not go to war with Iraq, now has a freedom of speech problem.

While many people claiming to be protectors of free speech will go to great lengths to protect the rights of flag burners, the same isn’t always so for those wishing to display the flag in a respectful manner.

This was the case in Richmond City Hall this week when a city employee was forced to remove an American flag he had hung next to his desk. The 5-foot by 8-foot flag was a gift to Gary Burton and it had been flown over the U.S. Capitol, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He and co-worker Ahmad R. Abbasi hung the flag to show support for American troops in Iraq.

Minutes later his boss in the permits bureau, citing a vague city regulation dealing with solicitation and sales, told him to remove the flag because three employees said they were offended and did not share his views on the war.

“The gist of [their complaints] is the flag is an attempt to make a political statement in support of the war,” Burton’s boss told the paper. “And they oppose the war.”

Showing pride in your country and supporting the troops in the field is not political speech. It’s a display of national pride. What’s next, the banning red, white and blue neck ties?

We guess the higher-ups at Richmond City Hall don’t approve of American flags unless they are burning. The problem today is, we have a society that demands equal rights for those with eccentric hairstyles, diets, wardrobes and more religious exceptions than can be listed. It’s a shame that this progression has sunk to include the prohibition of the American flag to avoid offending fellow Americans. This man wasn’t selling Amway products, he wasn’t preaching the gospel and he certainly wasn’t smoking. But he was treated as if he were with that same old, “Take it outside,” knee-jerk reaction.

So it goes with patriotism in the modern age. It’s patriotic to speak out in protest of your country. You can block traffic at rush hour, throw blood on police officers, vandalize businesses and desecrate memorials as part of this freedom. Displaying Old Glory, however, is considered by some to be too political.

That’s just sad.

This story did end well. Burton was told he can fly the flag… for now. At least until his bosses can find a more applicable regulation in the city charter stating otherwise.

What would Patrick Henry say? He’d probably just shrug and say, “It’s only Richmond.”

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