The Cost of Principles
Here’s a story of a guy who gave up his state job rather than fly the flag at half-staff for Jesse Helms at his place of work. His rationale: “he did not think it was appropriate to honor Helms because of his ‘doctrine of negativity, hate, and prejudice’ and his opposition to civil rights bills and the federal Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.” When told to fly the flag at half-staff or retire, he retired.
1. I think it’s admirable the man understood that civil disobedience often means paying a price for one’s actions;
2. I’m sympathetic to the man’s position, because Helms was a rotten piece of work, but of the things I’d personally be willing to lose my job over, this would not be one of them (I suspect in my place, had I decided not to fly the flag at half-staff for someone, I simply would have passively-aggressively ignored the e-mail and claimed to have accidentally deleted it, whoops, sorry, and then called in sick for the day);
3. North Carolina is probably legally in the right to demand the dude’s resignation, but it seems a bit harsh. A reprimand on his permanent record would probably have been sufficient, especially since the flag did finally get down to half staff.
(Before anyone paints me as your typical flag-burning hippie, I’ll note that for a couple of years in high school I took it upon myself to raise and lower the flag at my school because no one else could apparently be bothered to do it, and if you want to annoy me, one good way of doing it is to let a raggedy-ass US flag fly from your house or (ugh) from your car. Have some respect, people.
On the other hand, I don’t recite the Pledge of Allegiance, either, for moral and philosophical reasons. Yes, I’m a big ol’ bundle of contradictions, I am.)
Whether I agree this is something worth losing one’s job over doesn’t really matter of course; this guy did, and stuck by it. Whatever happens going forward, I certainly hope he feels the sacrifice was worth it.