Theft of flags is simply senseless

The flag had flown over the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C., was given to the family by one of this state’s better known senators, and had been draped over the casket of a decorated World War I veteran before his interment.

For the Ed Brunton family, it was an heirloom as well as a symbol of their patriotism. And if you happened to drive along Ferncliff near Grand Avenue sometime in the past month, you probably saw the enormous flag – 5 feet by 8 feet, it measured – draped from a front yard willow tree.

That was until late last week, when it was ripped down from the limb to which it had been affixed, and was stolen.

“I almost went into the ditch,” Ed, a handyman by trade, told us this week. “I couldn’t believe it wasn’t there.”

In the wake of the recent terrorist attacks on American soil, various writers have pondered the dawn of a new mood of national seriousness, and perhaps an end to the postmodern, ironic distance – trying so hard to see through everything, that we see nothing – that has defined so much of our culture of late.

The new sensibility apparently hasn’t gone as far as it might. Bainbridge Police say four other flag thefts have been logged since Sept. 11, while others may have gone unreported.

We’ll be the first to pledge our allegiance less to the flag than to the enormous freedoms it represents.

But given the iconic place the national banner enjoys in so many hearts and minds, these incidents strike us as thoughtless even by the generally low standards of vandalism. Nor will we forgive such knavery as some sort of political statement. Times of crisis remind us that wherever one happens to fall on the ideological spectrum, we all live under the same banner; Monday’s observance of Veterans Day will underscore that from time to time, many of our countrymen and women are asked to put themselves in harm’s way to keep aggressors away from our shores. Some fight for the flag, and all fight beneath it.

Hence the display of the Brunton flag, which was presented to Ed’s mother in 1971 by U.S. Sen. Warren Magnuson (a one-time Wing Point property owner, long-timers may recall). It adorned the casket of Fred Brunton, Ed’s father and Magnuson’s classmate, who served in the American forces in World War I and earned a distinguished service medal.

The flag had been stored as an heirloom for 30 years, before it was brought out for public display after the Sept. 11 attacks.

“It really (ticks) me off,” Ed told us. “Even if it was one I just bought from Ace Hardware, why would they steal somebody’s flag?”

We have no answer for him; we can’t imagine there is one.

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