We can put it on the moon, but not a Virginia construction site. That's how ridiculous the debate over the flag -- and all things American -- have become in the chaotic weeks since George Floyd's death. The state that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, George Mason, and Patrick Henry called home would be barely recognizable to the great men now, who believed those stars and stripes were the ultimate symbols of freedom, of justice. Now, amazingly, the flag under which slavery was abolished and segregation crumbled is "too offensive" for the state that helped build America.
Eric Winston wasn't trying to make a statement. As far as he was concerned, there was nothing radical or controversial about flying Old Glory. He went through the appropriate channels, got approval from the general contractor -- the Gilbane Building Company -- and unfurled a one-story American flag on the scaffolding where his company, American Coatings Corp. was working. To a lot of people, it seemed appropriate. This was, after all, the future home of the Virginia General Assembly offices. If an American flag doesn't belong there, where on earth does it?
Almost immediately, the Gilbane company got a phone call from the state. The flag, they said, must come down. It was, they worried, too inciting to protestors. "Over the past month we've seen buildings and structures around Capitol Square vandalized and flags, dumpsters, a bus and other items set ablaze during demonstrations around the city," spokeswoman Dena Potter said in an email Friday. "When we saw the flag, we were concerned that it could become a target, so we told the contractor to remove it."
Winston couldn't believe it. "Since when is this flag, on this weekend, IN THIS COUNTRY, a target!?!" he argued on Facebook. "Let me guess, if I had a Black Lives Matter flag it would be 'ok'!?... The American Flag is a symbol of Freedom!" he argued on Facebook. "I'm all for the freedoms and libert[ies] we have in this country, Protest, sure... whatever floats your boat... That's what this flag represents!"
Like a growing number of Americans across the country, he can't believe these liberal leaders are caving to the angry mobs. "Look, Mr. Governor, Mr. Mayor, or whoever made the call, stop letting the inmates run the asylum! This goes for politicians 'that work for us' on both sides of the aisle! Stop thinking everything we have or had in this once great state is offensive." If you want to remove something, a lot of Virginians fumed, try Governor Ralph Northam (D)!
When you consider the place Virginia has occupied in U.S. history, the decision is even more astonishing. This wasn't just another state. It was a colony whose luminaries led the way to our new experiment in democracy. Surely, a lot of Virginians must be grieved over the direction and the capitulation of Northam. But, as I talked with the statehouse minority leader, Rep. Todd Gilbert (R), Americans need to pay attention to what's happened in the Commonwealth in the last couple of years.
"[Republicans] had a robust supermajority here just a few years ago in the legislature, in the House of Delegates. And I did serve as majority leader -- and now I'm the minority leader because of the shifting political winds here in Virginia. And Virginia is a bellwether for the rest of the country. And I think it should be instructive to people all across the country that whatever their values are, if they are godly values, if they are American values... there are forces on the march that really hate those ideals. Everything about [them]. They hate those things and they are coming for them in every form. And unless people are willing to get up and change the way they do business and get engaged as citizens, I'm afraid all may be lost."
To Todd, this flag controversy is the saddest chapter by far. "This was a large American flag that had been constructed out of tarps. And it was just glorious. It was huge. It was beautiful... And it was hung on the side, not just of any building, but it was hung on the side of the new construction of the legislative office buildings for the legislature of Virginia. So this was not just any random building. This was the seat of government authority in Richmond in the state capital... And now, we have to take it down and hide it rather than standing up for it [as] a symbol of everything that unites us as a people."
And in almost every way, that plays directly into the hands of the unhinged Left. They want Americans to be intimidated and to shrink back in fear and silence. And too many Christians are fearing man right along with them. Jesus tells us that we're the light of the world -- "Let [it] so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven." In many ways, that's the problem. The light has been hidden. God's people have allowed the light of the truth to be obscured, because some are offended by it.
If we want our leaders to stop giving in to the angry fringe that wants to erase our history and destroy our freedom, we need to stop being complacent. The church has to pray, as the disciples did, for the courage and boldness to face the cancel culture of our day and proclaim the gospel truth. The future of our country depends on it.