Letter: Details raise questions on intent of flag request

Posted 9/9/20

To the editor:

Amidst protests nationally and in town, as part of a renewed civil rights movement, the town manager raised a Black Lives Matter flag. In raising the BLM flag, he signaled that the …

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Letter: Details raise questions on intent of flag request

Posted

To the editor:

Amidst protests nationally and in town, as part of a renewed civil rights movement, the town manager raised a Black Lives Matter flag. In raising the BLM flag, he signaled that the town recognizes the United States doesn’t treat black people equally.

Following this bold and meaningful action came an expected response. The manager was asked something like: y​ou flew their flag, let me know when we get to fly ours?​ When the request wasn’t granted, he returned with a new request and 16 co-signers: to honor the first responders who lost their lives on 9/11 by flying the Back The Blue flag.

I asked myself some questions...

- After 19 years of silence, why is a small group of Barringtonians asking to honor NYC’s fallen first responders, less than a week after the BLM flag went up?

- This flag represents a movement that encourages police to “restore law and order” with force and defend against the “radical left,” so how does it honor first responders' sacrifices on 9/11? (Quotes: actforamerica.org.)

- The person making the request stated publicly he doesn’t believe any flag should fly under the Stars and Stripes except a state flag and the POW/MIA flag, so why is he asking for a different one?

I don’t believe the intent is about 9/11. It’s: ​they got theirs, we get ours.​ That divisive logic seeks a harmful false equivalency to degrade the value of the BLM movement. First responders aren’t oppressed. Our high tax bills pay for their dangerous and difficult jobs. We owe them our respect and gratitude; both of which they have. People and businesses in town send meals, we publicly honor promotions within the departments, and a resident recently organized a regional parade in their honor.

The person who initiated this only referenced 9/11 as an afterthought, and even he doesn’t believe this flag should fly on our Town Hall flagpole. But still, his group submitted a request to the Council asking for that flag to fly, and linking their request to the terror and pain of 9/11, and the unbridled patriotism of the period that followed. How could we say no to that; right?

Well, those making this request seem to be counting on the emotional nature of their guise to back the Council into a corner. I’m compelled not to let emotion cloud my conviction to work for racial equity. Further, I will not allow the tragedy of 9/11 to be used in a tantrum of fragility that would weaponize our first responders and magnify the disrespect the co-signers have shown with this exploitative request.

If you respect our first responders, as I do, and want to avoid seeing those who sacrificed their lives on 9/11 being used as chits to be cashed in to make a political statement, please attend our 9/14 Council meeting and share your thoughts.

We cannot stop working for justice to appease those who are content to ignore injustice.

Jacob Brier

Barrington

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.