Barre’s Flag Fiasco

Oh no, I’m sorry, that’s way too controversial.

The Barre City Council deliberated for months on a proposal to fly the “Black Lives Matter” flag in City Hall Park, a measure first proposed last spring. They finally resolved the matter in a way that only an all-white group of desperate politicians could devise. They decided the BLM flag would fly through the end of December, and that for January it would be replaced by the “Thin Blue Line” banner, a bastardized version of the American flag that’s favored by the pro-police crowd.

Talk about both-sidesing an issue.

The only thing stupider than the final resolution was its original version, which would have seen 22 different flags displayed for one month apiece. That roster included the flags of England, Italy and France, as well as the Star of David, an Autism Acceptance banner and the flag of the Green Mountain Boys.

Talk about 22-sidesing an issue.

That idea was floated by Councilor John Steinman, a very conservative dentist who once ran unsuccessfully for the House. I couldn’t hazard a guess as to why he chose England, Italy and France (white people white people WHITE PEOPLE WHITE PEOPLE!!!!), or why he cast his net so widely, but somehow that proposal was actually adopted by Council at its November 17 meeting — only to be replaced by the two-flag plan the following week, presumably after an outpouring of laughter and derision.

I shouldn’t have to explain why it’s such an affront to tie those two flags together, but let’s give it a shot, shall we?

First, a caveat. I’ve been white all my life, and I consider myself partially woke. This is my take on the issue, and I welcome constructive criticism.

“Black Lives Matter” is an organic movement that fights against America’s centuries-old practice of using law enforcement as a tool to enforce racism. It started with enabling and protecting the slave trade. After the Civil War, the South used the law as a way to keep black folks down. And through the present moment, people of color are far more likely than whites to be victims of police violence. White people have been privileged throughout their history on this continent. Flying a “Black Lives Matter” flag, or painting it on a city street as in Montpelier, is a statement that it’s time for Black lives to matter just as much as white lives.

Its goal is not to punish or shame police — except for those who commit unjustifiable acts of violence, such as killing Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and uncounted others. I mean, we find out about such incidents now thanks to ubiquitous smartphones. One must assume that police were much more likely to act violently when they could safely assume that no third party would record what they were doing. (Honestly, any cop who commits an outrage anywhere in public view is just fundamentally dumb.)

The “Thin Blue Line” flag gives absolution to any cop doing anything anytime anywhere. At least, that’s the message being sent by those who wave it. As the presidential campaign went along, it almost entirely displaced the actual American flag at Trump rallies. It is a toxic representation of racism. People of color see it as such. And when it flies over downtown Barre, many of its citizens will feel excluded.

The TBL banner is decidedly not the “other side of the issue.”

“Black Lives Matter” stands on its own. It is a call for America to finally live by its supposed ideals of freedom and equality. It should fly on its own.

If the Barre City Council couldn’t bring itself to fly the “Black Lives Matter” flag without any artificial “balance,” it would have been better off not flying any special flag at all. That would accurately represent the city’s official position, which is apparently to ignore our racist heritage and our ongoing plague of race-based violence by police.


8 thoughts on “Barre’s Flag Fiasco

  1. Jake Hemmerick

    A few things miss the mark here, but the bulk is on. I’ve learned that the thin blue line flag (a flag with black backdrop and a blue line in the center) is different from the ‘back the blue’ flag (the bastardized version as you put it) — which is a violation of the US flag code. The original proposal actually came in June with just a single flag proposal, the BLM. This was punted to a newly formed Diversity & Equity Committee, which lo’ and behold, recommended the BLM flag. That’s when Councilor Steinman’s 22 flag proposal appeared less than 48 hours before the meeting and was approved by a majority of 4 on the 7-member Council. The next meeting, they thought better and decided that a yin/yang approach was the way to go. Not quite enlightened, but perhaps some progress.

  2. Kathryn Trudell

    Your comment “White people! White people! WHITE PEOPLE!” is appallingly racist. You have joined the liberal voices that want to replace “worship” of White skin with “worship” of Black skin imho. You are playing the race card throughout this article. The American flag is racist? The Trump flag is racist? The blue line flag is racist or at least irrelevant? Says who? That is merely your opinion. Others beg to differ. You opine that only the Black Lives Matter flag is not racist and deserves to stand on its own?? Really?? This is Vermont in 2020. This is not Alabama in 1820. Race is always a terrible way to order and organize a society. It leads to tribalism and persecution and more racism. Vermonters do not like to be told what they MUST do and how they MUST think and how they MUST look at the world regarding these issues. Thinking individuals can decide that for themselves. We were an Underground Railroad northern Yankee state. We do not wish to fight the Civil War all over again. Many Vermonters object to the Black Lives Matter flag not because we think Black lives don’t matter (of course they do), but because the BLM group is led by self-declared trained Marxists, sometimes joins with Antifa in violence, and BLM does NOT think all Black lives matter. They support the abortion of Black unborn babies all nine months. Many of us think all lives matter from the moment of conception until natural death. That goes for all skin colors. Vermonters do not like government telling them what they MUST think or what worldview they MUST have. And we sure don’t like people taking our First Amendment rights away from us and telling us we MUST think in lockstep. Are you forgetting about a number of protections against this sort of soft tyranny in the U.S. Constitution? We are all created equal. Why don’t you fly that flag instead??

      1. Kathryn Trudell

        Sandra Bettis – When liberals like yourself run out of cogent arguments in exchanges such as this one, you can bet they will always play the race card and hurl the label “racist” to try to shut people up. That move is rapidly becoming trite, hackneyed, and boringly expected. You did not disappoint in that regard.

  3. Joe Reil

    FWIW, all three of the Councilors who originally put forth and supported the flying of the BLM flag voted against the revised measure but were outvoted by the other three Councilors and Mayor.

  4. sandra bettis

    This is the best comparison that I’ve ever seen on the two flags. I used to work in Barre schools and I can attest to the administration’s turning the other cheek when black students reported issues.

  5. Max the Left-ish-t

    1. I’m glad you’re back and independent. Just rediscovered the site.
    2. The “22 flag” plan reminds me of when the legislature created civil unions… and ALSO created “reciprocal beneficiaries” that no one was asking for. It was a dilution that fooled no one.
    3. This is probably old fashioned of me, and maybe the result of the divisiveness of Trump, but I miss when we all had one flag, inasmuch as we ever did. You know, red white and blue. Imperfect, but everybody’s. As a Democrat, I was furious with how ol’ glory was (mis)appropriated during the Bush II administration… and Vietnam… &c. &c. But it’s my flag, too, I thought. The confederate flag seems to have given way on the far right to the Trump flag, or the Loser Flag, as I like to think of it. These, along with the BLM flag, are political statements. Anybody can fly them, but political institutions should rely on what unites us.


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