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Ron Patton | August 27, 2018
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While I was away on vacation with my family, I saw on my e-mail alerts that John McCain had passed away. It was just a day before his family issued a statement saying that he would be giving up cancer treatments.

It was odd because when John McCain died the way he did I thought of how my father passed away. It was kind of the same way. My father had been in the hospital for a month because he was treated for a simple wound to his heel. Being diabetic, it was a very hard and painful healing process. As he was recovering, he contracted c diff. He also started to develop pneumonia.

Eventually, the day had come where my sister got a phone call – my father’s lungs were filling up with fluid and he made the conscious decision of having the tube removed. He asked how long he had after the tube was removed and the doctors told him it could be hours or minutes.

My sister set up a conference call so that everyone in the family could be on the phone as my uncle gave a family prayer. We all got to talk to dad—and it came time for me to say something to a man I didn’t get along with when I was growing up –and then as I got older learned to love and respect. I opted to say, “Dad I know we didn’t always get along when I was young but now I can tell you that I understand and I love you – thank you for all you did for me.”

My father said to me as he was getting air, and he was very coherent: “Wow son, with all of this outpouring of love and family prayer I hope I don’t disappoint everyone.” It was his way of laughing at death.

Within 20 minutes of them removing his breathing tube, he died.

My father did not serve his country like John McCain did – he was no veteran and he was no senator. He was just a man who taught me about what it meant to be an American. He always woke us up early on the fourth of July to go to the chuck wagon breakfast sponsored by the disabled veterans. He often said that if you don’t get a knot in your throat when you see the veterans carry the flag then you are not doing the whole “American thing” right.

So what I am trying to say is for John McCain he was a veteran, he fought for our country – for that, he was a hero. However, what you with that moniker later in your life is what you should be remembered for.

There is no entitlement when you are hero — you are just doing what is above and beyond and in the end, most of the time you realize you just did what you are supposed to do – something that I was taught when I went to church and that is no greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.

It is no secret that I did not like John McCain and I am not going to fawn over him with some feigned respect for the man as a Senator – that would make me disingenuous.

I have made my statements in the past about him and out of respect perhaps it is wise to not dwell on the past as the man is now gone.

However, there is something I wish to address that has angered me and that is how the media has once again devised a point of agitprop to again anger the majority of people that know nothing about flag protocol.

John McCain died of brain cancer, nine years to the day after Senator Ted Kennedy died of the same rare cancer.

President Barack Obama ordered the flags to be flown at half-staff for a full week after Senator Kennedy had died. This was something that was rare, as President Obama decided to go against flag protocol in order to show respect to the fallen Senator.

On Sunday, the day after John McCain’s death, the flag flying at the White House was lowered to half-staff to honor the late Sen. John McCain. It was again raised on Monday morning.

The media took notice and started their hate agenda all over again against the president even though the Whitehouse was just carrying out what is flag protocol.

The flag was lowered again.

In a statement, Trump said he’d signed the proclamation keeping the White House flag at half-staff through McCain’s interment, scheduled for Sunday.

I have been reading all over the mainstream news that it is “tradition” to fly the flag at half-staff until internment for a senator, but I was always taught differently.

U.S. Code, Title 4, Chapter 1 Section 7 says this about flag protocol.

“Following the death of a member of Congress, the flag should be flown at half-staff the day of death and the following day.”

The Whitehouse followed the protocol – but this has really angered the American Legion and others who have somehow picked up on the idea that this is tradition or it should be the tradition for some reason.

I have a theory, and it was a sore spot with me during the Obama administration.

After Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts died in 2009, President Barack Obama ordered flags at the White House be flown at half-staff for five days.

Of course, a President can override flag protocol if he chooses but apparently what is said to be the tradition is literally a remnant of what the previous administration started lowering the flag for nearly every tragedy the country was going through.

Obama issued 74 proclamations to fly the flag at half-staff, exceeding President George W. Bush’s 58 and Bill Clinton’s 50.

In all 6% of Obama’s presidency was spent keeping the country in a period of national mourning – this included lowering the flag with every shooting or national tragedy that wound up on the nightly news.

Flags were lowered so often that it became difficult for the White House or even other federal buildings to know where to draw the line.

This, of course, gave everyone else the idea that we should lower flags for everything – for example, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had the flags lowered when Whitney Houston died of a drug overdose.

In Portland, Oregon, Mayor Sam Adams ordered that the city flag would be lowered to half-staff to honor any person under the age of 18 that died as a result of homicidal violence. Depending on who did the lowering – the American flag was also lowered.

Before President Dwight Eisenhower, the lowering of flags was a more haphazard process, with different departments making their own decisions and little consistency. After ordering flags be lowered to half-staff for 30 days to honor Chief Justice Fred Vinson — a duration some thought too long. Eisenhower signed Proclamation 3044 to bring some clarity to the process.

Presidents and former presidents would get 30 days. Vice presidents, chief justices and House speakers would get 10. Associate justices, sitting Cabinet members and the secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force would have the flag lowered until their burial.

When Nixon was president, there was an option for some congressmen the same treatment. Which basically was the same thing that Eisenhower had once said –basically giving himself and his successors the flexibility to lower flags on other occasions: “In the event of the death of other officials, former officials, or foreign dignitaries, the flag of the United States shall be displayed at half-staff in accordance with such orders or instructions as may be issued by or at the direction of the President, or in accordance with recognized customs or practices not inconsistent with law.”

And this is where we get the so-called “tradition.”

Trump didn’t have to lower the flag till McCain’s burial – but he did so out of criticism – and we know how much he despised McCain.

Now again we see that even with the death of McCain the media turns what people do not know into a hot political button and once again if you try to point it out there seems to be this anger or this idea of bumper sticker patriots, screaming at others that this is some sort of tradition.

The tradition is simply put – for 8 years we had a flag being raised and lowered up and down to the point of not being able to keep track and some argued that it was a very well done psy-op to keep the country feeling badly about itself.

It was President Ronald Reagan who perhaps first understood how to use the tools of the modern presidency unify the country during times of national tragedy. He lowered flags after the Soviet Union shot down a Korean Air Lines flight on which a congressman from Georgia was a passenger, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, and the U.S. embassy in Beirut was bombed.

President Bill Clinton continued that tradition, using a lowered flag to remember the victims of a series of terrorist attacks, domestic and foreign, in Oklahoma City, U.S. embassies in Africa, the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia and the U.S.S. Cole.

President George W. Bush marked the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks with six days — but then extended it for another six days. He then signed another proclamation and took part in a ceremony at Camp David to restore the flag to full-staff. Bush was also the first to use the flag to mark tragedies caused by natural disasters, including Indian Ocean tsunamis and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Some of the orders Barack Obama gave for the lowering of the flag were:


Washington Navy Yard shooting 4 days,

April 17, 2013 Explosion in West, Texas, 1 day

April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon bombing 5 days

Dec. 14, 2012 Newtown, Connecticut Sandy Hook shooting, 4 days

Sept. 12, 2012 U.S. Embassy bombing in Benghazi, Libya, 4 days

Aug. 6, 2012, Oak Creek, Wisconsin shootings, 4 days

July 20, 2012, Aurora, Colorado shooting, 5 days

Jan. 9, 2011, Tucson, Arizona shooting, 5 days and

Nov. 6, 2009, Fort Hood shooting, 4 days

He also ordered the flags lowered for the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida.

He didn’t lower the flag when U.S. service members were killed by a gunman in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He also suffered a backlash for not doing so. So he ordered the flags to be lowered on federal grounds to honor the dead.

None of these events are covered in the flag protocol – they were only ordered at the discretion of the President – after all of these flag lowering are we surprised that no one knows when it is appropriate or inappropriate to lower the flag?

I received a bit of criticism by demanding we stop lowering flags for mass shootings anyway.

Mass shootings are a tiny slice of the overall violence which happens in America every day, and contrary to popular perception the rate of those shootings doesn’t appear to be increasing – it has just been the traditional psy-op to keep the flags at half-staff and keep the country in mourning for political reasons, mainly to remind us of gun violence and the threat of guns in the country.

One way to over respond is to use the American flag in ways that simply make it trivial.

In the United States it is becoming tradition to overreact and over respond to the menacing acts of a few. It seems that we treat everything as a national tragedy because of politics. It’s not really about the victims. There are tragedies which happen all around this country every day.

It appears that whenever a tragedy happens there is political pressure to lower flags for this tragedy or that tragedy. If we lower the flags too often, what does the symbolism even mean?

While a number of veterans are saddened or angered by what the President did not do for John McCain – the issue that the media exploits are used for a political talking point.

What President Trump lacks is his ability to be the comforter in chief – he apparently has to comfort everyone by lowering a flag to remind everyone of the tragedy we have become as a nation.

Is there a cutoff for tragedy – is there a time where we can move on?

It may be inconsequential but symbolically powerful.

Written by Ron Patton

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