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Date: January 18, 2010
Byline: Russ Lemmon

Russ Lemmon: Reader takes issue with Canadian flag along U.S. 1

The first time I drove past Whispering Palms, a 55-plus community on U.S. 1 about a mile south of Sebastian, I raised an eyebrow over the huge Canadian flag by the entrance.

On all subsequent trips past the mobile-home/RV community, however, neither eyebrow has budged. In other words, I’ve come to accept it as normal.

Then came an e-mail from Brad Dewson.

“There is something that gets to me every time I drive past Whispering Palms,” he wrote. “It is the Canadian flag flying at the same height and to the right of the flag of the United States at their entrance. Personally, I don’t think the flag of any other nation should be flown on our soil. On the other hand, I know people have the right to fly whatever flag they want.”

He cited two sections of the flag code — “notice that 7g contradicts 7c,” he said — and then provided some food for thought.

“I guess my question to you is, shouldn’t our flag be displayed more prominently?” he asked. “Do you think it’s disrespectful to fly a foreign flag?”

After mulling his questions for a few weeks, I decided to stop by Whispering Palms to inquire about its can’t-miss Canadian flag.

The property manager, Barbara Cournoyer, surprised me. Rather than get defensive, she smiled and asked me to hold on for a few seconds. She went into her office and returned with the American Legion handbook on flag etiquette.

She opened the handbook and read the following paragraph aloud:

“When flags of two or more nations are displayed, they are to be flown from separate staffs of the same height. The flags should be approximately equal size. International usage forbids the display of the flag of one nation above that of another nation in time of peace.”

I complimented her for being so prepared.

“That concern has been expressed on more than one occasion,” she said. “And I refer them to the handbook.”

She admitted the “in time of peace” part in the flag code could be disputed. Different people would interpret that in different ways, I said.

The flags fly on 30-foot poles.

Up until last summer, Whispering Pines had three flag poles — with the middle one, holding a second U.S. flag, standing 35 feet high. Strong winds took a toll on the middle pole, so Whispering Palms decided to remove it, leaving the twin 30-foot poles.

Last week, I answered Dewson’s questions via e-mail.

“I’m going to have to side with Whispering Palms on this one,” I wrote. “Personally, I don’t like the flag of another country being flown at the same height as the U.S. flag. But I defer to the flag code.

“As far as it being ‘disrespectful’ (your word), I wouldn’t go that far. Would Canadians find it disrespectful if we flew the U.S. flag there? Would we, as Americans, think it’s ‘disrespectful’ if we were traveling in Canada and came across a U.S. flag? Like the Canadians spending the winter in Indian River County, I think they find the Canadian flag ‘welcoming.’ “

Whispering Palms has 571 spaces, meaning 800 to 1,000 people live there during “the season.” Cournoyer says Canadians account for about half of the RV visitors and 30 to 40 percent of the mobile-home residents.

“Excellent food for thought. Glad you brought it up,” I said in my e-mail to Dewson. “Would you mind if I mentioned you by name when I write about this?”

Dewson’s response showed he has a sense of humor.

“Go ahead and throw me under that big Canadian tour bus,” he said. “Just remember, although I said I don’t like them flying the (Canadian) flag, I know they have the right to fly whatever flag they want.”

So noted.

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