By DAVID GREEN
It’s nothing new. People have flown the U.S. flag upside down for years.
It’s been done to protest the war in Iraq. It’s been done to protest withdrawing troops from Iraq.
It’s signaled disenchantment with President George Bush and it’s expressed alarm with the loss of civil liberties.
It’s been turned upside down to protest the Wall Street bailout and it’s been said to show general disgust with the state of the nation.
A veterans group in Texas turned its flag around to show dismay with the lack of veteran’s health care in the region.
When the results of the 2008 presidential election were announced in November, the resurgence of the upside down flag went wild, with many people stating it would remain that way until Barack Obama was out of office.
It’s easy to find references to plans for flying the distress signal on inauguration day.
No matter what the cause, there’s been a common response to every act of flag flipping: outrage.
Fayette resident Craig Rower learned that after he began flying his U.S. flag upside down several weeks ago.
Rower, who serves as Fayette’s acting mayor, said he turned his flag upside down the second week of December, although a neighbor thought it started shortly after the November election.
Rower said he’s explained the act to anyone who’s asked, and he added that most people have agreed with him after hearing his words.
They might have agreed with his feelings of distress, but not with his means of expressing it.
After the inverted flag was reported to area media, a television station from Toledo came to Fayette to report on the incident. Now Rower is hearing plenty of criticism. The number of negative comments continues to grow on the Channel 24 website.
Maybe Rower got off easy. In other parts of the country over recent years, the act has resulted in arrests and fights and at least one death threat.
Rower said he’s had more than his fill of verbal attacks made against him and his family. He took the flag down Thursday and gave it to the police chief at the village hall.
“At this point I decided that the protection of my family was more important than the message was worth,” he said—the message that some people didn’t understand.
And what was the message?
“I have a growing disapproval of the direction that our federal government is taking this great republic of ours,” Rower said. “They are currently trying to introduce bills that limit our free speech. They are trying to limit what can be said on the internet. These things go against everyone’s first amendment rights.”
He also gave examples of infringements against the second, fourth and fifth amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
“When you add these examples to the Patriot Act, something that should have been named the Unpatriotic Act, all of the bailouts, all of the ‘loans,’ and the government intrusion into the private sector, it becomes a just cause to sound the alarm against these atrocities,” Rower said. “This is truly distress. This is what an inverted flag means. It is the international sign of distress, not disrespect.”
But disrespect is what other residents saw. Many people stand behind Rower’s right to exercise his freedom of speech, but they think his method is inappropriate.
A few commenters writing on the television station website used their names and others wrote anonymously.
“My family with a history of military service to the U.S. thinks his actions are disgusting and not in keeping with the true intent of flying the flag upside down,” one commenter wrote.
Another wrote, “I am a proud Republican and no matter what and no matter who, I will stand behind the Commander in Chief. The majority voted him in so get used to this and stop being disrespectful to the flag, the American nation and the men and women that have and still serve this country so that you can be living free.”
Rower said he was surprised by the reaction of residents.
“I never expected this to garner this much attention,” he said. “I was just hoping that a few people would wake up to what was going on around them and see that their rights are being quickly eroded away.”
After Rower took his flag down, he was contacted by the nationally syndicated Glen Beck show for an interview and he said he’s receiving support via the internet.
That’s not the case at home in Fayette where many of his fellow citizens remain highly critical of his inverted flag.