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Each Monday, Tommy Tomlinson delivers thoughtful commentary on an important topic in the news. Through these perspectives, he seeks to find common ground that leads to deeper understanding of complex issues and that helps people relate to what others are feeling, even if they don’t agree.

On Memorial Day, Measuring Patriotism By The Square Foot

Tommy Tomlinson

Today we’re going to discuss one of life’s eternal questions: Does size matter?

The item in question, you’ll probably be relieved to hear, is the American flag. Gander RV, a dealership off I-77 up in Statesville, is in trouble for flying a 40-by-80-foot flag on its grounds.

That’s 3,200 square feet -- the size of a five-bedroom house if you throw in the garage.

That’s also way bigger than Statesville’s city codes. Under its current rules, the biggest flag you can fly up there is about 1,000 square feet – a third the size of the Gander flag.

The city has been asking Gander since last fall to replace the flag with a smaller one. Now the city has filed a lawsuit to force Gander to comply. Gander says it’s not about to take down the flag because, well, America.

I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that every time somebody like me does a story like this, Gander gets more publicity. I’ve already mentioned its name six times in this commentary alone. I think I’m due some sort of commission.

But I will say that the law of unintended consequences has a chance to kick in here. If the rules don’t matter, what’s to keep somebody from putting up a humongous Russian flag across the highway? After all, the Russians are our buddies these days … I think. I guess it depends on who you talk to.

You would think that reasonable people would be able to settle this sort of thing, but if everybody was reasonable, we wouldn’t have a whole lot to talk about except sports and the weather. So let the court system have a whack at this one.

In the meantime, for the rest of us, today is Memorial Day.

It’s a day meant for us to remember all those who died serving our country in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a day for flags, too. But the big showy flags aren’t the ones that get to me today. It’s all the little flags poked in the ground next to the gravesites of those who sacrificed themselves for the rest of us.

Stop by a cemetery today and you’ll probably come across a family or two planting a little flag and shedding a few quiet tears.

You don’t measure patriotism by the size of your flag. Bigger’s not better. And the quiet moments often speak the loudest of all.

Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column normally runs every Monday on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at ttomlinson@wfae.org.