Saturday, July 11, 2009

Dispute Over Flag Protest Erupts in Wisc. Village

This is an article from Yahoo! regarding an Iraqi war veteran and his choice to hang the American flag upside down outside his business in Wisconsin. Town authorities proceeded to have the flag removed by police on July 4, so as not to upset the citizenry. The flag was later returned. Predictably, the ACLU has gotten involved and will probably pursue legal action.

I will spare commentary and analysis on how this case applies to the First Amendment, as this seems on its face to be a pretty clear violation of that amendment. However, I am interested as to why he started hanging his flag upside down. It stemmed from a dispute with the town over his plans to open an Italian restaurant. He invested $200,000 to covert the bulding into a restaurant, and for whatever reason, has been denied a liquor license. For most restaurants, not being able to serve alcohol is pretty much akin to a death sentence. I go to this Chinese-Japanese restaurant a couple of times a month. Good food, good prices, etc. It's also a very nice place, and the owner(s) obviously put a lot of money into the place to make it look gorgeous and a place where you would want to take people, your family or whatever. But when it first opened, it was without a liquor license, as (I believe) the prior owner(s) were cited and shut down for selling alcohol to minors. Business was pretty bad, we were usually the only ones in there, and I didn't expect the place to last long. But, lo and behold, a few months later, they got their license (I believe it was due to the road this resturant was on; this road used to be car lot city, a lot of car dealerships and now they're gone, and the town probably figured it needed all the vibrant businesses it could get), and now, business seems to be doing much better.

So, yeah, being able to serve alcohol is a necessity in this kind of business, and the man is justifiably pissed off for probably sinking most if not all of his life savings in a business that can't possibly survive. Worse, as an Iraqi veteran, the guy thought he was fighting for freedom, but has to contend with a Soviet-style bureaucracy in order to get permission to sell liquor. If I were him, I would probably hang a flag in distress too.

One other thing: The village president, John Deschane, had something to say, and quotes like this always make me laugh: "If he wants to protest, let him protest but find a different way to do it." What is a socially acceptable way to protest? More important, hanging a flag upside down is a pretty drastic step. Surely, the man must have exhausted all other sensible options before getting to the point where he was frustrated enough to do this. Mr. Deschane, as another veteran, should show a little empathy to this man and get his head out of his ass.

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