Flag flap

Last week Ed Regan, of the Chico City of Flags fund-raising committee, stopped by unexpectedly. Regan’s group is behind the unfettered flag flying this town’s experienced in recent years. I thought he was going to take me to task for occasionally questioning the need to fly so many American flags from so many light standards on so many streets in Chico. I’ve suggested that this is overkill, hints at a patriotic insecurity and gives smarmy politicians something in which to wrap themselves. So when Regan sat down in my office, the first thing I said was, “Hey, I have nothing but respect for you. I don’t doubt your sincerity in this at all.” Regan gave me a quizzical look. “I was just wondering if you could say something in your column about our fund-raising efforts,” he said. “The Enterprise-Record said we’d have to take out an advertisement, but we don’t want to spend the money.” That makes sense. A fund-raising committee wants to raise money, not spend it. There was a moment of silence. “Oh,” I said. Regan handed me his card, which, not surprisingly, shows a flag waving against a blue-and-white sky. “Donations are needed to maintain and expand this local patriotic civic project,” says the card. “Please make checks payable to Chico City of Flags and mail to Chico Elks Lodge, 1705 Manzanita Ave., Chico CA 95926 or phone 342-2881 for information.” There you go, Ed. I’ve granted your request, but still think we’re overdoing it with the flag waving. (Funny thing: When members of the local gay community or the Chippendales dancers rent out the same facility for a function, they have to refer to it as “Manzanita Place” instead of “the Elks Lodge.” Go figure.)

As the Nov. 2 election pulls closer, more and more campaign signs are sprouting across the local landscape. First I noticed in certain neighborhoods Andy Holcombe for City Council signs. There’ve been a few Barbi Boeger signs mixed in, and today I saw my first Ann Schwab sign. I’ve also noticed a number of Kerry-Edwards signs. All of these are of modest size. Driving to and from Butte College recently, I’ve noticed some bigger, bolder signs erupting from the earth. First there was Rick “Keene for Assembly.” “Republican Leadership,” it says across the bottom. I’ve noticed two of those signs in open fields along the east side of Highway 99. There is a third one planted next to Wal-Mart, close to where the super expansion is slated sometime next year. I’ve noticed in recent days that two other super-sized campaign signs have joined one of Keene’s. Larry Wahl for City Council and Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale for Assembly have gotten permission from the same landowner as Keene to place their signs. LaMalfa’s, by the way, says “He’s one of us.” What does that mean? I suppose it depends on who wrote the words. Was it the sign-maker? Or was it the campaign manager? Maybe it was a wealthy Glenn County rice farmer who receives thousands of dollars in farm subsidies, because that’s what LaMalfa is. I don’t know about you, but I’m not part of that crowd. Although, here I must disclose that in the 1960s the Ohio Soil Bank used to pay my dad $200 each summer to mow rather than plant this big field to the north of our house. We thought that $200 was a good deal and dutifully mowed that field with our little red Farmall tractor from International Harvester.

There was a great photo in the Sept. 3 Enterprise-Record featuring LaMalfa and Wahl. In the photo LaMalfa is holding an autographed photo of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sitting on a motorcycle. Wahl is wearing a T-shirt that says, “This is what a Conservative looks like.” I don’t know if Wahl was being ironic, but I think the idea of such a shirt is that its wearer should not look conservative. It’s meant to say that conservatives cannot be stereotyped, that they are, in the words of Sly Stone, “everyday people.” (I don’t think Sly is a Republican, though I could be wrong.) That shirt is made for a guy who looks more like Mick Jagger than Larry Wahl. Nobody is going to argue that Larry doesn’t look like a conservative.