Folks in Boston and Philadelphia contest which locale can lay claim to the title, “The Cradle of Liberty”, and, despite the fact that neither are living up to their reputations, bureaucrats in one Boston suburb seem intent on giving Philly the edge.
As WBZ 4’s Liam Martin reports, the town of Chelmsford, MA, recently notified local businessman Jon Crandall that his patriotic display of 200 small American Flags on the lawn of Laer Realty was a big no-no.
There was a note in the door from the building department stating we had a violation, a flag violation, excessive flags.
You read that right. Excessive flags.
On private property.
But, of course, the town officers see private property open for commerce as something other than private property (a problem that goes back to a nefarious portion of the 1964 Civil Rights Act on a national level), and, hence, politicians think they can order Mr. Crandall around. They can tell him he has too many flags.
And how many flags should there be?
Well, this is where the wags in the offices get into their kabuki dance routines and use the term “reasonable”, a word often slipped into legislation to allow politicians to do whatever they want. Writes Martin:
The town wants the real estate company to take down some of the flags and leave up only what they call 'a reasonable amount,' but hasn’t said how many that is.
Of course the town hasn’t.
And, good for him, what has Mr. Crandall done in response?
He more than doubled the number of flags on the lawn. They’ve now planted 500.
Score one for the free-thinking individual. Says Mr. Crandall:
We feel this is a patriotic act. It’s not about our business. It’s about supporting our troops, supporting veterans.
He plans on leaving up the flags until July 4th, a day the Chelmsford bureaucrats might recall has a certain ring to it, a kind of familiarity, some distant, vestigial race memory… A misty, foggy echo about a declaration… Something about independence…
Or, they could stick to their regulatory mindset and hang on these contemporary words from Michael McCall, the town’s glorious Assistant Town Manager:
This is a commercial establishment located at a busy intersection. It was in the front lawn of that particular property, and in the opinion of our code enforcement officer, the building commissioner, it was a violation.
Yes. So vulgar and unrefined, so unfashionable. One would hate to offend the high and mighty sensibilities of the bureaucrats.
Look, if other folks don’t like the way a business presents itself, they don’t have to give the business money.
When was the last time a tax collector taking your cash offered you the option to keep it without losing your property or being arrested?
It doesn’t matter whether this business was displaying an American flag, the black flag of war, or a checkered flag, or a British flag, or a flag with swears all over it. This is private property. Period. We must allow people to express their opinions and aesthetic preferences so that we can find out what kinds of people they are and tailor our interaction to benefit or not benefit their businesses. Just as the free market is a constantly operating system that allows free people to show their preferences for things that help their lives, so free speech is a free market for ethical displays and shows of our character and morals. If we cannot express ourselves, others cannot see what we are like and respond with preference or avoidance.
The statute, or "code", of polis does not offer that option. It smothers this marketplace of ideas when politicians and bureaucrats institute mandates like this.
And Mr. Crandall has become more popular, not less, in town since adding flags.
So perhaps there’s still a spark of hope for Massachusetts. Despite their recent history of voting for crushing statist hypocrites like Elizabeth Warren, sometimes, Massachusetts people can see who the real “little guy” is, and back him.
To be fair, the American flag is an easy icon for many people to support. It is connected to patriotism, a vibe that can be a dangerous tool in the hands of wily despots intent on manipulating people to gain more state power. But respect for private property supersedes any fear that leftists, rightists, or “independents” might have about a man displaying a lot of flags.
And the American revolution, which began in Massachusetts, not far from Chelmsford, was started to protect ones rights to peacefully use private property as he or she sees fit.
Something the town bureaucrats in Chelmsford seem to forget.