The American flag should unite, not divide us, Gov. DeSantis. Take a cue from Sears | Opinion

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Fabiola Santiago
·4 min read
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What’s built into a flag?

A whole lot of emotion, history — and, in Florida these days, questionable patriotism.

Gov. Ron DeSantis is using Old Glory to make a political statement, igniting a partisan battle in the state over whether the flag at the Capitol should be flown at half-staff in honor of controversial hard-right talk-show host Rush Limbaugh.

As a matter of personal ethics, I’d rather not write about a person who has died if I don’t have anything good to say — although I do make exceptions for dictators. And, this time, I’ll make an exception for Limbaugh, who died last week from lung cancer. By spreading the bigotry he carried in his heart against immigrants — and Hispanics, specifically — he carved for hate speech a political platform in this country.

It’s wrong for the governor, who is catering to the extremist elements in the Republican Party, to honor Limbaugh with a symbol as powerful as the U.S. flag flying at the state Capitol in Tallahassee.

It’s especially tone deaf after the Stars and Stripes was so abhorrently desecrated during the recent attack on the Capitol by a white supremacist mob.

Ag commissioner says her agencies will defy DeSantis, not lower flags for Limbaugh

The sight of an American flag should unite, not divide us.

Instead of for Limbaugh, Florida and the country’s flags should be flying, half-staff on land and half-mast at sea, for the 500,000 Americans who have died during the COVID-19 pandemic, a grim milestone surpassed on Monday.

DeSantis, take a cue from Sears

Some people are sensitive to the emotions.

The governor should take a cue from the Sears in Coral Gables.

When a reader asked me to look into why the Sears store at 3655 SW 22nd St. was flying its flag at half-staff, I expected the worst, to be honest. Because of the timing, I suspected the store manager — or corporate — may be taking sides on the Limbaugh issue and following in the governor’s footsteps.

But I, accustomed to being disappointed by big retailers like Publix, was so wrong.

Store manager Adrian Fernandez told me he first flew the flag at half-staff for several days after the attack on the Capitol, where five people died, including a police officer.

“Now, it is at half-staff due to the presidential order yesterday because of the half-million Americans who lost their lives over COVID,” Fernandez said. “I don’t think there is anyone who is alive today who hasn’t been touched either by family members or just acquaintances who have been impacted by COVID — and it’s not over yet.”

Monday, President Biden lowered the federal government’s flags to half-staff in recognition of the United States hitting the terrible milestone and as a way to acknowledge the victims and their suffering.

Fernandez says he follows the White House’s protocol on handling of the flag — and not the politics.

Flag only latest political issue

In Florida, however, even coronavirus and vaccination policies have been turned into highly politicized issues by the governor. He won’t allow local governments to enforce mask mandates in epicenters, including Miami-Dade, and has turned vaccine distribution into political theater stops and a way to reward supporters.

Gov. DeSantis attacks Biden for giving a damn about the health of Floridians | Opinion

Using the flag to honor a bigot whom DeSantis calls “a friend,” a Palm Beach-based broadcaster who spread false information and portrayed hardworking and low-wage earning Mexicans as lazy and government-dependent, is only the latest in an ongoing series of outrageous behaviors.

DeSantis has taken something precious from Floridians.

Hate of minorities and discrimination have always been around, but DeSantis has made the toxic seem normal and acceptable politics.

With Old Glory, a flag so many Americans have died defending, DeSantis seeks to sanctify one of the original purveyors of hate speech on the airwaves.

The flag, former director of the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution John Gray said in an article about the origins of the name Old Glory, “represents success, righteousness, sovereignty.”

But also, he added, a conflict still “deeply contested in our souls.”

DeSantis should read it and refresh his memory.

The Confederacy lost. Old Glory, the flag for all, prevailed.