Our illustrious Governor Mark Sanford, who also happens to be a former Furman classmate of mine, has once again found himself on the negative end of the news. Sanford is catching flack for not ordering state flags to half-mast in honor of Rosa Parks. Apparently Parks does not fall within that narrowly defined group of individuals for whom flags are lowered, according to state law.
Shortly after taking office, Sanford had lowered the flags for the victims of the Shuttle Columbia disaster. Someone, probably a protocol staffer, pointed out the error of his ways. Now, Sanford is holding the legal line, even in the case of Rosa Parks. This, despite Our President’s request that flags be lowered on federal buildings.
Being a public official myself, I can understand, and to a certain point sympathize with Sanford’s stance. You make one exception, and everyone points to that exception as a reason for their own particular needs. Soon, the whole process is first politicized, then trivialized so that it is no longer a significant honor for anyone. Therefore, the easiest thing to do is to point to the first incident as a mistake, then obey the letter of the law from there on out.
That’s the easiest thing to do. That’s what Sanford did. But let’s look at this. It would have cost nothing politically for him to lower the flags, especially since Bush had already set the tone. It is always appropriate to show respect. But by taking the easy legal route, Sanford once again makes South Carolina look like the racial backwater of America. Too bad we don’t have a real leader in Columbia.