Date: June 23, 2009
Byline: Thomas Stewart and Faina Gaynor
Different kind of flag day
Mark Stephens of Yreka is flying an inverted American flag in an attempt to show his contempt toward the current government and the economic decline.
When asked for his rationale, Stephens told the Daily News Monday that he had already expressed it in a letter to the editor, which arrived at the newspaper office that day.
In the letter, Stephens wrote, "We have allowed a thief into our home, a thief who is confident, arrogant, and sure of himself." (Editor's note: the letter appears today on page 4.)
"The thief in our home is our own government; they have come for the liberties we have long enjoyed in this nation but have, for too long, taken for granted," Stephens continued.
He went on to say, "We are being assailed from within by the very government officials sworn to uphold the rights of the citizens of this nation."
The Flag Code Title 36, U.S.C., Chapter 10-176 Respect for Flag states: "The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property."
The union is the part of the flag with a blue field and the 50 white stars representing each state.
Flying an American flag upside down is not necessarily meant as political protest. The practice has its origin as a military distress signal; it has been used by extension to make a statement about distress in civic, political, or other areas. Inverted flying of the flag was ruled constitutional in Spence v. Washington, a 1974 Supreme Court ruling.
The Daily News conducted an informal survey around Yreka in an attempt to get a variety of opinions from members of the public about Stephens' protest. However, many of the people interviewed shared similar thoughts.
Crystal Fahey, Yreka, feels the action is " ... disheartening. We have soldiers in Iraq and we should be supporting them."
"I think they're correct, the country is in turmoil," Jan Fahey of Yreka said. "Yet it's disrespectful, we need to honor our flag and our country."
Kurt Stumburgh of Yreka simply stated, "We are in distress."
"It hurts my heart," said Tony Johnson of Yreka. "Times are bad; we should be coming together as one. This isn't the first time we've gone through this. We should be looking at the positive things."
"I don't blame them," said Anna Johnson of Yreka. "There's already too much damage and it's just going to get worse."
"The country is in a state of distress..." Donmarie Autry of Yreka began.
"...because of (individuals like Stephens)," added Lonzo Love of Yreka. "We have the chance to turn it around and they fight it tooth and nail."
"He has the right, Richard White of Grenada said straightforwardly. "Freedom of speech, freedom of expression."
A resident who chose to remain anonymous believes that " ... it's illegal; you cannot degrade the flag. Flying the flag in distress under attack is OK but not because of the economic times."
"It hurts to see the flag displayed in any other way than the proper way. It's offensive, no matter if you're pro- or anti-war." stated Joel Shelton of Yreka.
"There is, however, hope," Stephens' letter continues. "It lies within our power, yours and mine, to make a difference."
The letter ends with a piece of Stephens' advice: "It is time to make a stand. Do not allow apathy and indifference to anchor you into inaction. By taking no action, you have chosen your road."
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