Flags aplenty

This week the Chico City Council voted 4­3 to deny a request to fly the American flag along the city’s main arterials as is done now on all patriotic holidays. The pro-flag flyers wanted Old Glory flapping in the wind until the war in Iraq is over. That, of course, raises the question, how do we know when it’s over? It’s not like a buzzer sounds or a ref blows a whistle or the last out is made in the bottom of the ninth. The council could have voted for its own definition of the end of war. How about when a democratically elected government is in place in Iraq? Locating Saddam? Finding weapons of mass destruction? When the last American soldier steps off of Iraqi soil? When the Enterprise-Record drops its special “America at War” coverage? It’s a tough call, and the four councilmembers who voted against the idea showed some guts. In these days of frenzied flag-waving and flag-wrapping, it’s easy to be labeled unpatriotic if you stray from the masses.

One other thing on this all-flags-all-the-time business: Flying them for weeks on end right now will only dilute the glory they symbolize on those patriotic holidays. The gesture becomes meaningless. It’s like wearing a tuxedo everyday. The impact wears off and people start questioning your sanity. While we’re talking about flags, have you noticed the lineup now flying from the flagpole in front of the City Council building at Main and Fourth streets? We have the American flag on top, the state flag just below that, the blue service flag next, followed by the POW flag. Does the city have a flag we could strap on just below the POW flag? Chico should have a flag, since we’ve become the city of flags.

And speaking of symbolic gestures, I’ve noticed yellow ribbons tied around trees in the yards of some houses in my neighborhood. These good folks are adhering to the Tony Orlando school of troop support (or support for guys who’ve just gotten out of prison after three long years). And while I have deep respect for that great ’70s pop sensation, for my taste the yellow-ribbon route is a bit showy, a bit pretentious. It’s like sticking a lawn ornament in your front yard, and I’m not a lawn-ornament kind of fellow. So I follow Orlando’s other recommendation for showing full troop support. I knock three times on the ceiling.

Boy, it’s hard to get a grip on what’s going on in Iraq these days, at least based on newspaper headlines. Why, just this week the local daily ran this headline on Saturday: “Control over Iraq expands.” The very next day the headline screamed: “Capital gone out of control.” What I read is, ever since the United States marched in and took control, lawlessness and looting have taken hold, and things in Iraq are now out of control. How long before Iraqis are fondly remembering the good old days and putting bumper stickers on their cars that say: “DON’T BLAME ME, I VOTED FOR SADDAM”?

Newspaper mogul Dean Singleton is about to add another publication to his collection. Last week the Denver-based Singleton was in negotiations to purchase the Marysville Appeal-Democrat. His corporation, MediaNews, already owns the Enterprise-Record, the Oroville Mercury-Register, The Red Bluff Daily News and the Paradise Post. Earlier this year, MediaNews purchased the Post. We’ve also learned that Scott McKibben, the man running the MediaNews subdivision that operates the local papers, has resigned for “personal and professional” reasons. MediaNews now owns 50 daily newspapers, a number of weeklies and a television station.