We should not politicize lowering the flag. Ever.
This week Assembly Speaker Robin Vos requested that all U.S. Flags in Wisconsin be lowered to half-staff to honor conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.
The Governor has not responded to the request.
Let me respond.
This request is a perversion and abuse of one of our country’s sacred honors.
This is what Vos wrote in his request to the Governor: “Rush offered up political dialogue that helped generate a more robust debate of ideas at kitchen tables, classrooms, and legislatures. His successful show also opened the door to more political talk show hosts on both sides of the aisle. No doubt, there are people who did not agree with him, but there is no question that he made a lasting impact on political discourse and conservatism in our nation.”
That last statement is the problem. Rush Limbaugh is a polarizing political figure. I can appreciate his skill as a broadcaster. But he is just that; a broadcaster. He was not someone who went into public service, served his nation in the military or made any great personal sacrifice. He wasn’t a first responder or nurse serving COVID-19 patients.
Limbaugh made his millions dividing our nation. He once mocked gay men who died of AIDS by playing the song “I’ll Never Love This Way Again.” He was a divider who exploited and played on our worst traits.
And before you bombard me with emails and tweets, let me assure you, I would feel the exact same way if we were talking about Rachel Maddow or someone on the far left. This isn’t a right or left thing. Please don’t oversimplify the conversation by claiming that it is. It just isn’t.
The U.S. Flag Code, yes there really is such a thing, says that the President shall lower the flag for the deaths of Presidents, former Presidents, Vice Presidents, Supreme Court Justices, members of Congress. It is also lowered on Memorial Day, Pearl Harbor Day and September 11th. The President can also order the flag to half-staff in response to tragedies like the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion or mass shootings.
The President and Governors also have the authority to order it lowered when they deem it “appropriate.”
Lowering the flag in Wisconsin would not be appropriate. Speaker Vos didn’t mention any tie between Limbaugh and Wisconsin. I couldn’t find one because there isn’t one. There is no legitimate reason to lower the flag.
The last time Governor Evers ordered the flag lowered to half-staff was when firefighter David Tomlinson died. That was appropriate. He contracted COVID-19 while on duty as a fire inspector. He died a hero.
One of the first times the U.S flag was lowered was for the death of George Washington more than 200 years ago. THAT was solemn. THAT was earned. THAT was patriotic. Let’s make sure that when we grant this most hallowed honor, it’s not political. Ever.