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Property and Patriotism: Army vet forced to remove flag on pain of eviction

Iraq War veteran Charlie Price and his wife Dawn aren’t happy.  The couple, rightly proud of Charlie’s service and the nation he serves, had a flag displayed in a window of their Oshkosh Apartment.  The flag had been in the dining room window since November, But on Tuesday, the couple was served notice: remove the flag or face eviction.

The headlines on these stories are attention-grabbers, of course.  Publishers have papers to sell, after all, and nothing sells papers like a little outrage.  Hell, my own headline was built on the same premise, and I don’t even have ad space to fill.  But when we look beyond the headlines, we see that, surely, there must be some reason for it.   Certainly, no American company who’s actually trying to sell something to Americans would come right out and admit hatred for the flag?  And indeed, the company in question was quick to respond to calls for a statement:

“This policy was developed to insure that we are fair to everyone as we have many residents from diverse backgrounds. By having a blanket policy of neutrality we have found that we are less likely to offend anyone and the aesthetic qualities of our apartment communities are maintained,” [Midwest Realty Management's] statement said.

Ah, see?  No problem.  They just want to make sure people aren’t offended.  By the Flag.  Of the United States of America.  Which country they are actually in.  No, wait… come  to think of it, there might well be an issue here.  It would appear that the Management company views the American Flag as a political poster that may “offend” some people with “diverse backgrounds.”

Just one problem: The Flag of the United States of America isn’t a political symbol.  It symbolizes neither the Republicans nor the Democrats, TEA partiers nor socialists.  Indeed, the very design of the flag of the United States puts on display the diversity the management company seeks to maintain.  E Pluribus Unum.  Out of many, One.  Thirteen stripes, symbolizing the thirteen original colonies, and fifty stars, in recognition of each of the fifty separate states.  Furthermore, this is the United States.  One’s ability to display the flag of the United States when actually in the United States shouldn’t be subject to the delicate whims of folks who may not  like it.

They are welcome to leave.

And, it turns out the Management Company may well have realized the error in their above statement.  It may have occurred to them, at some point, that the suggestion that the flag may offend somebody was stupid and pointless.  Because asked for another statement by another news source, Midwest Realty backpedaled.  Hard:

“We just don’t allow people to stick things in their window,” Midwest Realty Management president Rodney Oschleger explained.  “Instead of drapes or blinds, for example, we don’t allow them to put sheets.  We don’t allow them to put flags or banners or religious or political things.”

Oschleger insisted that the company’s objections are aesthetic and have nothing to do with the message a particular flag or banner might depict.

“This is a window situation,” he added.  “If they wanted to put a flag on their balcony we would have no problem with that.”

Oh.  See, now that’s better.  A Guns ‘n’ Roses Poster (dating myself somewhat, I suppose), being neither flag, nor banner, nor religious, nor political, would be welcome on a window.  But the American Flag is somehow… trashy.  The problem I have with this, of course, is that it’s specifically not what they said the first time.  Either it is a problem with the message, or it isn’t.  And the first time they were asked, before having the chance to make it more palatable to people who care about such things, their response was is that it was, indeed, a message issue.

People can do whatever they want with their own property, but I cannot abide liars.  Either tell the truth about your policy, or offer a ‘no comment’ and leave us to our own conclusions.  But on something like this, you don’t get to backpedal.

There are people now who are suggesting that the Flag Display laws be changed to force companies like Midwest Realty to allow people to display the flag as desired.  I am against this.  It is their property, and as such, they ought to have the right to decide what is and isn’t acceptable as outside decoration.

However, were I the Price family, I would leave as soon as contractually allowed.  I would tell others to leave.  And I suggest, here and now, that people who care about the right of good folks to do what they wish within their own living space — and specifically about the right to display our flag in our own damn country — let Midwest Realty know, in no uncertain terms, that we refuse to do business with a company like them.  That they, and people like them, have no place among people who value personal freedom.

A company who would be willing to evict a man who valiantly risks his life to ensure their continued freedom and prosperity, over, of all things, the symbol of the country he serves, doesn’t deserve to be in the company of that, or any, patriot.

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