Half-Staff

Another mass shooting, another round of flags flying at half-staff (or “half-mast”… I am inclined to say “half-pole” myself). Here is a view of the Waleska Post Office this morning:

At least this one was ordered by the President – one of my pet peeves is how people are all too willing to lower the flag – everyone’s flag – to half-staff because they have suffered some private loss. But the national flag should only come down during times of national mourning – let the state governor order the state flag down, the mayor order the city flag down, the college president order the college flag down, etc.

But I think that half-staffing of the national flag happens way too often anyway. It’s like the standing ovation: “Formerly reserved for those rare instances when mere applause seemed insufficient, the standing ovation morphed into just another hollow social obligation some time ago.” And anyway, the desire to participate in Media Events is juvenile and should be resisted.

Apparently this is a problem in my homeland as well. Colby Cosh wrote a blog post that has stayed with me over the years:

Yeah, I’d say flag protocol has gotten a little sloppy in this country.

As I understand it, tradition and correct procedure permit Canada’s flag to fly at half-mast only when the Sovereign or one of her representatives dies, and only for thirty days at a time. But aggressive idiots–the kind who say things like “How dare you tell me how to express my love for Canada?”–have ruined the ceremonious pleasure of the flag for everyone; when in private hands it now dips, routinely and almost universally, to honour cirrhotic disk jockeys or police dogs. In fact, try finding a Canadian flag not on a government building that ever flies at the top of the mast; it’s not as easy as it sounds.

I guess I thought the abuse of the flag had lost its power to annoy me–but have a look at this photo from the grounds of Woodhaven Middle School, which is performing a ritual act of patriotic obeisance on behalf of an outstanding employee.

Steven Bradley Smith, 31, was found hanging by paramedics who were called to his home at 19035 46 Ave. in Edmonton before midnight. … charges against Smith, laid by Spruce Grove RCMP last month, include sexual assault, sexual interference, inviting sexual touching and sexual exploitation involving… two girls. Smith was also charged with making child pornography and shooting digital video footage of one of the girls while she was nude, as well as having anal intercourse with her. Police alleged the incidents took place between Sept. 1, 2003, and Oct. 30, 2005, and said both girls were under 14 when the alleged assaults began.

Er…. A nation mourns?