It's a nice thought. But he's wrong. Patriotism cannot be mandated by law. What is the value of flying Old Glory if the flag is only flown to avoid paying a $500 fine? It is one thing to penalize people who burn or deface the flag and quite another to force anyone to fly the flag.
To be honest, we are a little bewildered by this legislation. We cover almost every parade in Queens and we can't remember a parade where the flag was not proudly displayed. It seems to us that the councilman has come up with a very questionable remedy for a problem that barely exists, if it exists at all. Worse still, this legislation plays into the hands of the anti-immigrant crowd that gets annoyed by parades that celebrate the ethnic origins of New York's melting pot. We are reminded of radio host Curtis Sliwa, who complains frequently about the flags of other countries that fly in ethnic-pride parades. Sliwa and others like him must be reminded repeatedly that America is strengthened, not weakened, by its ethnic diversity.
Even though this legislation is flawed and possibly an infringement on free speech rights, it is unlikely that any council member will oppose it if the bill ever gets to the council floor. Politicians will not want to run the risk of being labeled unpatriotic. Debate will be stifled.
In this case, the carrot would have been far better than the stick. If there are organizations that stage parades without flying the American flag, why not meet with the leaders of these parades and explain that New Yorkers expect to see Old Glory at every parade? Perhaps the council could even provide these organizations with an American flag.
The real challenge is not to fly more flags but to make certain that children understand all that the American flag represents. Being an American goes deeper than electing to be a Mets or Yankees fan - although these fans also carry banners. In a week when the American political system is under the microscope, we have all been reminded of the care and thought that went into creating the Constitution that guides this republic. Because the Founding Fathers founded this nation on the rule of law, there is abundant frustration but no panic, no real crisis.
Stabile should use his bully pulpit to encourage every organization to fly the flag that is the living symbol of the world's greatest and most enduring democracy. The councilman is absolutely correct when he argues: "Thousands gave their lives to secure the freedoms that we enjoy today and our flag is a symbol of that freedom. It should not only be honored on holidays like Veterans Day or Memorial Day, but everyday." But forcing anyone to honor that flag won't mean much.
Haber was slimed
We haven't always agreed with Bernard Haber, the chairman of Community Board 11, but we have never doubted his integrity or his commitment to the people of northeast Queens. At a recent meeting of CB 11, Haber was accused of a "conflict of interest" because he had bought his car at a dealership seeking a controversial zoning variance.
Haber openly disclosed this information. The people who so fiercely oppose the variance should argue their case on its limited merits and resist the temptation to engage in personal attacks and divisiveness.
©2000 Community News Group
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