MINOT, N.D. — What does lowering the flag mean, as a symbol, if you can't keep track of why they're lowered in the first place?
If you're going past a school or a bank or a courthouse, and you see the flags lowered, and you have to ask the people you're with why what are we accomplishing with the symbolism?
Not much of anything.
Or, strike that, we are accomplishing something — the diminishment of the symbolism of lowering the flags.
It happens so often that Gov. Doug Burgum's office has split the news release archive on their website into categories. One for flag directives and another for everything else.
So far in 2021, the flags in North Dakota have been ordered to be lowered no fewer than seven times, including four times in April alone.
This month we've lowered the flags to recognize the death of former Vice President Walter Mondale, the Indianapolis shooting victims, the death of former Rep. Alcee Hastings, and in honor of the victims of the January riot at the U.S. Capitol.
That last is a bit duplicative because, on January 13, the flags were ordered lowered in memory of the law enforcement officers who were attacked during that riot.
Is this too much?
Because I'm pretty sure this is too much.
I suspect this inordinate amount of flag-lowering has a lot to do with the rabid, social-media-driven populism American culture has embraced. "Silence is violence" is the prevailing attitude, and which elected official wants to be the subject of a Twitter pile-on because they didn't go through the rote motions of issuing a press release and lowering the flags every time something, ranging from merely sad to the downright awful, happens somewhere?
If the choice is between taking a stand against the inanity of keeping our flags lowered in near perpetuity and facing the backlash of angry internet mobs, not to mention the slings and arrows of the journalists and pundits those mobs lead around by the nose, or just ordering the flags lowered, again, we know which path the politicians are going to choose.
The path of least resistance.
This is not a hill any of them is going to die on.
Still, somebody, somewhere in a position of influence on this matter, should take a stand.
Lowering our nation's flags should mean something. The bar for issuing such an order should be high. Definitely higher than it is.
Some of you will want to rebut my argument by suggesting that I'm somehow diminishing those who have been honored with this gesture, but how honored should they feel when the flags are lowered so often the public has no idea why they're lowered in the first place?
If we want this symbol to mean something, as an honor, then we need to do it less.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at email@example.com.