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Flag-themed sofa causes debate

Former town supervisor Jim McNeil reclines on the contentious couch in Ellenburg’s town hall.

Former town supervisor Jim McNeil reclines on the contentious couch in Ellenburg’s town hall. Photo by John Grybos.

— A dust-up over the honor of Old Glory at Ellenburg's March 20 town meeting centered on a debate over treatment of the U.S. flag.

“It doesn't belong in a public building,” said former town supervisor Dick Pearson. “I don't care if it's in a private residence.”

Reader poll

Does red, white and blue mean no sitting for you?

  • No! I'd never sit on Old Glory. 0%
  • Yes! It only looks kinda like a flag. 4%
  • Eh, it's just a couch. 96%

24 total votes.

Pearson was in the Marines and served in the military police during his service years from '59 to '64. He said that people have died for the flag, and sitting on it is painfully offensive.

Chris Brooks, newly made the town's recreation director, countered that the fabric on the sofa isn't actually a flag. He wears a flag patch daily as part of his corrections officer uniform, and wondered if rubbing that patch on chairs when he sits down is disrespectful. He thinks the sofa is patriotic.

Town Supervisor Dave Leonard added the red, white and blue-bedecked piece of furniture to the hall. It came from his mother's collection, and was originally made in celebration of the bicentennial.

Leonard canvassed the audience at the town meeting for opinions. Five people in the crowd raised their hands when asked if the flag-themed sofa was offensive out of an audience of about 20. He welcomed further input.

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Comments

Gerard 2 years, 9 months ago

I served for 6 years in the military also , (1968-1974) and I do not find this antique flag draped sofa offensive for being donated to our Town, which I've lived in all of my 63 years. To add: I have a daughter which was born on the 4th of July, and we bought her cloths made up of the Red, White and Blue with the Stars. Her grandfather always called her his little fire cracker! This was back in the early 70's and no one ever complained that it was offensive. Plus, I'm proud to say that I now have a new granddaughter that was also born last year on the 4th of July and I do hope it doesn't offend anyone that she wears the colors of our flag or anyone else here in the USA. I appreciate that Dave Leonard donated this great looking sofa to our town and I appreciate that Chris Brooks for speaking up and to Jim McNeil for making people aware. Thanks Guys!

PS Another Thank You, to Supervisor, Dave Leonard for donating his time in fixing up and painting our town hall. Great job and dedication!

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jps4usa 2 years, 7 months ago

This couch is a beautiful piece of furniture. The representation of the American flag is not desecrated by having people sitting & relaxing on it. Mr. Pearson is wrong to say it doesn't belong in a public building. This political correctness is wearing thin on me.

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ggnichols 2 years, 7 months ago

This is not an issue regarding political correctness. This is a respect issue. There is nothing wrong with the bench and its covering as a piece of furniture to be displayed as a patriotic symbol made to celebrate our bicentennial. Where the offense comes in is when someone sits on the flag or the representation of the flag, which, in your own comment, the covering is a representation of the American flag. I'm sorry that not everyone sees it in the same light but how hard is it to respect the feelings of those that are offended by simply not sitting on the bench? Hopefully, tonight's decision to put the bench off on its own and display it as a patriotic item will resolve the problem. All of those that felt that the flag was being disrespected were in agreement with the proposed solution. I hope we can all live with it.

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ggnichols 2 years, 7 months ago

As one of the few who found it somewhat offensive for people to sit on either the American flag or a representation of that flag I find it very offensive for the individual pictured above to be photographed sitting on the bench in question in obvious disdain for those who did find it offensive. Based upon the way he is lounging lazily in the seat with the look of contempt on his face, it appears that he is doing this solely to show his contempt for the feelings of those who spoke out against the display. True, it is not an official flag, but you can't tell me that it is not a reminder of the flag and does not represent the American flag. As for Mr. Brooks' comments regarding the flag on his uniform jacket brushing up against something being offensive, he should know that that was a frivolous comment. Having served in the U.S. Marine Corps, as he stated he had, he knows that wearing of the flag properly on the uniform is not inappropriate and brushing up against a wall is not offensive. And as far as clothing that is made out of the flag being cute, I agree, and I too have been guilty of purchasing such items of clothing for myself and my family, however, that doesn't make it right. Just because "everyone" does something doesn't make it right. I did this before I read, in detail, the regulations regarding the use and display of the American Flag and/or representations of the flag. It was this town meeting's discussion of the flag and the respect or lack there of for it that caused me, and my family, to read in detail the official regulations. I do not feel that this should be something that is a continuing point of contention for the town and should not take up alot of time at the meetings. I do feel, however, that it is unnecessary for Mr. McNeil to snub his nose at others and be disrespectful of their feelings by parking his backside on the bench simply for the purpose of being, other than respectful of their ideals. I may not share all the same beliefs of the members of the Town Board or all of the individuals who attend the town meetings or the members of my community, however, I would not deliberately go out and disrespect something that I know they hold in high regard.

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jps4usa 2 years, 7 months ago

The chair looks fantastic with the Red, White and Blue! Use it for what it was intended. To sit on and relax. Enough of this political correctness stupidity.

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ggnichols 2 years, 7 months ago

It's not about political correctness. That's when we don't say something or do something out of fear of offending someone. This is about respect. The covering on the bench is not a flag, that is correct. What it is is a representation of the American flag. It was done as a patriotic gesture and to represent the flag. Further, for some of us, veterans and non-veterans alike, it invokes the image of the flag as that is what it is meant to represent. Were it simply "cloth" then it is quite coincident that it is made up of the colors red, white and blue, has thriteen starts and on the backrest thirteen stripes of red and white. Also, there is nothing at all offensive about the bench or the material which covers it. Where the offense comes in is when people sit on it. It has the appearance of being disrespectful. And, when people in the community know that there is a percentage of others in the community who find it offensive, would it be overly burdensome for them not to sit on the bench? In this society we are not even asked but are told that we have to be tolerant of the rights of individuals who come to our country illegally, and by virtue of being here illegally they are criminals - whether they like that label or not - and we can't offend them by calling them illegal immigrants, illegal alients or anything else with a negative connotation. We must be respectful of their customs and traditions while they spit on ours. Can't we show some small degree of respect for those who find the idea of someone sitting on the bench insulting and just choose not to sit on it? How hard is it going to be bit ti sut ib tge bench. After all, prior to this issue being brought up it's not like there was a waiting list because so many people wanted to sit on it that we had to take turns. At tonight's town meeting there was a recommendation made that should be acceptable to everyone where the bench would be given a place of honor in the hall and it would be there for everyone to enjoy. Hopefully this issue is over and everyone can get along with their lives and get along with one another.

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