In the spotlight for the wrong reason again

Olivia Fowler

Olivia Fowler

On The Way

By Olivia Fowler

The following is an excerpt from the presidential order to lower the flag to half-staff as a mark of respect for the memory of Nelson Mandela issued by President Barack Obama last Thursday, an order our county sheriff chose to disregard.

“As a mark of respect for the memory of Nelson Mandela, by the authority vested in me as President of the United States by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its territories and possessions until sunset, December 9, 2013. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.”

For any who are interested, when the president issues an executive order to lower the flag to half-staff, it isn’t a suggestion. Under the law of the United States of America, he is authorized to do this.

President Obama also ordered flags at half-staff on the anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and on Saturday for the 72nd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Under federal law, the president has the authority to issue this order.

The order did not say “lower the flag if you feel like it.” Nor did it say that any elected official in any state or county has the authority to overrule a presidential order.

Any person laboring under the delusion that a county sheriff has more authority than the President of the United States is sadly misinformed. Grant you, not everybody is familiar with the federal code concerning the American flag, and there is no legal penalty for disobeying, but we should all know better. Most of us know the Pledge of Allegiance. And most of us know the flag isn’t supposed to touch the ground and that burning it is against the law. But not everyone is aware of who has authority to order it lowered.

It was embarrassing to see the headline about a South Carolina sheriff who disobeyed a presidential order in USA Today, The Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and numerous other papers nationwide. And the coverage hasn’t been limited to our own country. It’s gone worldwide.

My first reaction was, “Oh no! Not a sheriff in the South.” But of course, it had to be someone from the South, or it probably wouldn’t have been as newsworthy. And it had to be a white man from the South. And not only was he from the South, he had to be from South Carolina. And it isn’t enough that he’s from our home state, he has to be our own county sheriff.

No matter what is said, the action reinforces every negative racial stereotype about our region to the entire world. I’m saddened by this.

We can only hope our sheriff did not understand how his actions would be interpreted by the rest of the world. We can also hope our state will be spared any more public black eyes.