On Friday some activists got on their iPhones and agreed that on Saturday they’d throw on their Wolverine work boots to beat tracks down to Olympia to protest the “communist” Chinese flag flying on the capitol campus.
I first learned of the controversy from a Facebook thread started by Mason County Republican Party Chairman Travis Couture, who asked, “So can someone please explain to me why the hell we are flying a communist Chinese flag at our capitol? (Rhetorical) We cant have a ‘Christmas’ tree or a Gadson flag but we can have a communist flag?”
As for the tree question, that call is made by the Association of Washington Business, because it’s their tree and it’s part of a fundraiser they’ve been doing for kids for 26 years, according to this story from the (Spokane) Spokesman-Review.
The governor’s office answered that the flag was up because there was a delegation visiting from China and that the flag was removed after they left. The same was done earlier this year when delegations from Austria and Finland were here. On Monday the flag of Scotland was raised in honor of Tartan Day.
The video in one of the links above shows the flag being lowered, with a couple of Gadsden-flag bearing witnesses and a voice on one of the videos saying, “This is what happens when America speaks.” That the activists had anything to do with the flag’s removal is questionable, but not completely clear to me. First of all, it looks to me that the state staff removed it, not some roving gang of patriots. The guy has a specific tool to lower the thing. It all looks quite orderly. Jaime Smith, a spokeswoman for the governor, said it was state personnel that removed it. But she also told Huffington Post, “Our state’s Department of Enterprise Services was going to lower the flag shortly after that anyway.” The “anyway” in that statement makes me wonder if even if the protesters didn’t remove it themselves, if the lowering was expedited by the complaints. She clarified in an email to me later that, “The flag would have been lowered anyhow, was my point to HuffPo.”
China makes products we use, like boots, phones, most of our shoes, other clothing and even, according to one Amazon reviewer, Gadsden flags. (That’s the one with the snake and the “Don’t Tread on Me” mantra.) We as a nation also owe China, or the Chinese, a lot of money. I can’t argue whether it’s a good idea to fly any other nation’s flag at our capitol campus, but if you’re going to, how do you decide which nation to exclude?
And obviously I don’t know what kind of phones the protesters use or the boots they wore, but they might want to check the labels, even on those flags.
UPDATE: I asked state officials from the governor’s office and from the Department of Enterprise Services some additional info. Some on Facebook are asking about flag protocol.
Smith sent me a list of other nations’ flags that have flown in the same place for the same reasons. Here they are.
United Kingdom 2014
Japan 2013 and 2014
We also received a detailed explanation from Smith on the flag’s placement and the criteria for when a foreign flag gets raised.
“We fly the flag of a foreign country in the Flag Circle when a high level government representative of a country recognized by our government meets with a statewide official. Countries like Iran and North Korea are not recognized and we would not fly their national flag under any circumstance.
“The US government formally recognizes countries. A state does not. In 1980 the United States formally recognized the People’s Republic of China.
“International flag standards and the flag code of the United States specifically state that the flags of sovereign nations need to be flown from separate staffs and at equal height. No national flag should be higher than any other national flag. State flags and banners are different.
“When the US and other national flags are flown together, the U.S. flag should be in the position of honor and to the right of other flags. We orient our flags to the north steps of the Legislative building as the prominent feature of the most significant building. So looking at the flags from the steps, the U.S. flag is always to the right and a foreign flag is to its left. If you look at the flags from the Temple of Justice, however, it looks backwards. The flags have been oriented in this way for more than 20 years. With the flags in the conference room they are oriented to whomever is speaking at the podium, so to the speaker’s right, but audience’s left.”
Regarding the lowering of the flag, I’ve got a second person saying it was state staff that removed the flag during a normal course of duty. Linda Kent from DES sent the following.
“DES received an email Friday afternoon from the Governor’s office informing us that the Chinese ambassador had departed, and that the flag could be taken down. The email also contained a reminder that the Scottish flag should be put up by Monday morning.
“In the past, there has not been a specific time frame for flags to come down. Basically the building and grounds crew works the changing of flags in between other duties on the Capitol Campus.”
I agree with one critic who said we have bigger issues to worry about. My reason for diving in has much to do with Fox News’ coverage, which was shown Monday on the show “Fox and Friends.” The coverage obviously involves no original reporting and seems to rely solely on the accounts offered on sites like Gateway Pundit. Somehow I expect more from the news organization with the tagline “Fair & Balanced,” and the one that can legitimately brag that it is the most trusted news network in the nation.