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South Carolina Sheriff Refuses To Lower Flag For Nelson Mandela

Following the death of Nelson Mandela on Thursday, President Obama ordered flags at the White House and other Federal offices to be lowered to half staff in his honor until December 9th. Typically when this happens, governments at all levels follow suit even though the President technically doesn’t have authority over them. That won’t be happening in Pickens County, South Carolina:

Rick Clark, the sheriff of Pickens County, S.C., vowed on Friday to defy President Obama’s order that U.S. flags be lowered to half staff in honor of deceased South African leader Nelson Mandela.

Clark made his promise in a Facebook post to keep flying the flag at the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office at full height.

“I usually don’t post political items, but today is different. I received this notification today, ‘As a mark of respect for the memory of Nelson Mandela, the President orders that the flag of the United States be flown at half-staff effective immediately until sunset, December 9, 2013,’” Clark wrote. “Nelson Mandela did great things for his country and was a brave man but he was not an AMERICAN!!! The flag should be lowered at our Embassy in
S. Africa, but not here.”

President Obama’s mark of respect for Mandela on his passing is admittedly unusual in that it is only the third time in recent history that such an act has been done for a non-American, the other two being when Winston Churchill passed away during Lyndon Johnson’s Presidency in 1965 and when Pope John Paul II died during President George W. Bush’s time in office. I have no idea what Clark did in 2005 assuming he was in office at that time and he obviously wasn’t in office in 1965, but I do have to wonder if he’d be doing this if the foreign leader were anyone other than a guy from Africa. If you get my meaning.

In any case, here’s a screenshot of Clark’s Facebook post:

rick-clark-facebook-post

Judge for yourself.

Update: NPR reports that the honor has also been used to mark the death of other leaders besides Churchill, John Paul II, and Mandela.

 

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Jim Henley says:

    I have an opinion and a theory. My opinion, as one of the most tedious white anti-racists who posts here (I like to think), is that I have no problem with his statement. The all caps on “AMERICAN!!!” seems like egging the custard, but “he did great things for his country and was a brave man” is respectful and straightforward. There’s no coyness or deflection about it.

    Now the theory: I think he’s worried about his constituents. Cause his flag is at half staff, and the President just told people to lower their flags to half staff. So he’s making sure the goobers don’t come after him with torches and pitchforks – metaphorically, I am sure! – for doing the bidding of the Kenyan anti-colonial usurper. He doesn’t have to view the president that way himself. He just has to know plenty of his neighbors and voters do.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  2. C. Clavin says:

    That this racist sticks out speaks to the influence Mandela had.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 5

  3. JKB says:

    .

    ..but I do have to wonder if he’d be doing this if the foreign leader were anyone other than a guy from Africa. If you get my meaning.

    Doug, don’t be coy. Embrace your racism. Granted tinged with regional bias.

    Nelson Mandela was head and shoulders above other African leaders since the mid-20th century but he was not a great world leader. He certainly doesn’t rate to be in the same ranks as Winston Churchill or Pope John Paul II.

    The ordering of the flags to half-mast by Obama is simply further demonstration of the “movie” approach by the Obama administration to the world. They’ve read the Cliff Notes but don’t comprehend the complexities or realities beyond the superficial and how things look.

    Mandela is unique in trying to bring South Africa together instead of blood-letting against the whites, although the latter seems to be moving apace now. He was unique in voluntarily stepping down at the end of his term. He did, however, head an organization hostile to the US. An organization that brought corruption in the South African government to great levels. Mandela was a terrorist, but, only after trying non-violent means. He is to be applauded but he is hardly someone to enter the rarified ranks of non-US citizens honored by a national period of morning in the US.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 60

  4. C. Clavin says:

    Pope John Paul?
    The one that protected the child rapers?
    Figures you would respect him.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 28 Thumb down 11

  5. The New York Times had an article yesterday explaining that South Africans are rather mystified by all the hagiography about Mandela being done here in the US. Mandela’s reputation in his own country is not nearly as high as it is here. I admit I am equally mystified why any US government flag should be flown at half staff. JKB, above, has it right. Mandela was of little real significance to the course of America’s history.

    And Doug: “I do have to wonder if he’d be doing this if the foreign leader were anyone other than a guy from Africa.”

    We could also equally wonder whether the US president would have given such an order were he anyone other than a … well, you get my drift.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 40

  6. Rock says:

    @C. Clavin:

    And Obama was a racist for not flying the flag half-staff for Margaret Thatcher… right?

    In stead of labeling him as a racist, why not take him at his word and make a good argument defending the practice of honoring foreign dignitaries with flying the flag half-staff?

    I admire Mandela and have no problem honoring his memory, but I oppose practices which weakening of the authority and identity of nation states vs. global power structures.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 18

  7. Rock says:

    @Rock:

    Whoops:

    …which weaken the authority

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  8. James Pearce says:

    Lowering the flag is not sacrosanct, hurts no one, and is a sign of respect.

    NOT lowering the flag is not that big of a deal, but it is kind of a dick move.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 46 Thumb down 4

  9. beth says:

    @C. Clavin: And I don’t remember anyone refusing to lower the flag for him even though I’m sure there were many people who felt he didn’t deserve it for this very reason. It’s not like President Obama makes this request every week; it wouldn’t kill you to just do it out of respect for the office but idiots like this sheriff have no respect for it when it’s held by a black man. And for those of you who say I’m just playing the race card, I live in South Carolina and believe me, the racism against this President merely because he’s black is breathtaking. I hear it every single day so don’t even bother to respond that it’s not true.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 31 Thumb down 5

  10. C. Clavin says:

    @Rock:
    I know she is a sweetheart of the Republican cult…but Thatcher did nothing on the level of Mandela.
    And I don’t take the intellectually stilted…racists…at their word.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 19 Thumb down 5

  11. C. Clavin says:

    Stilted is the wrong use of that word.
    Let’s go with just plain ignorant.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 5

  12. MBunge says:

    @JKB: Nelson Mandela was head and shoulders above other African leaders since the mid-20th century but he was not a great world leader.

    This reminds me of a discussion I had over on a pro wrestling board about the “hall of fame” worthiness of various wrestlers. I argued that it was fine to set the standard high enough to keep Wrestler X out of the “hall” but that setting the bar there would mean that virtually no wrestler from his era could qualify for that honor and that if the bar had always been that high, plenty of folks who are considered “hall of famers” wouldn’t qualify either.

    If Mandela doesn’t deserve this respect, what post-WWII world figure really does?

    Mike

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 1

  13. jib10 says:

    @Donald Sensing: Same thing can be said about Winston Churchill. The British are mystified at why we deify the man. Hell, they kicked him out of office before the war was over.

    Truth be told, Winston mad a lot of mistakes during the war. Not surprising given his poor strategy skills. Think of them as a lot of lessor Gallipoli’s. They cost a lot of British lives and could have cost the UK the war if Hitler has been as serious about England as he was about the USSR.

    Churchill’s did stand firm when others wanted to make peace with Germany after the fall of France but idea that HE stood alone is bunk. There were many others who held the same view. Chamberlain, the old appeaser himself, was still in the govt, still in the cabinet after Churchill came to power and he backed fighting Hitler every bit as forcefully as Churchill. He too deserves a lot of the credit for keeping the UK in the war. As do many others.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 3

  14. Jim Henley says:

    @JKB:

    Mandela is unique in trying to bring South Africa together instead of blood-letting against the whites, although the latter seems to be moving apace now.

    ORLY?

    He was unique in voluntarily stepping down at the end of his term. He did, however, head an organization hostile to the US. An organization that brought corruption in the South African government to great levels.

    South Africa was always intensely corrupt. Apartheid was corruption on a grand scale: the employment of political access to share a nation’s spoils among the connected. The white South African community was just an especially large set of cronies.

    Mandela was a terrorist, but, only after trying non-violent means. He is to be applauded but he is hardly someone to enter the rarefied ranks of non-US citizens honored by a national period of mourning in the US.

    Well I disagree on the last part, and I’m plainly not the only one.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2

  15. Buffalo Rude says:

    I have to admit that watching the racist id of the more rabid right wingers on full display for everyone to see is fascinating. Sowing and reaping and all that. . .

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 5

  16. Jim Henley says:

    @jib10: Yeah, Churchill was the classic stopped clock and the Nazis were one of his twice-a-days. He wanted to stand firm against Hitler, sure, but he wanted to stand firm against everybody: the Irish and the Indians not least. There was no special insight driving his stance on the Third Reich. His number just finally came up.

    Had Britain followed Churchill’s lead on every foreign-policy controversy in the first half of the 20th Century, it and the world would be much worse off.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 3

  17. Jim Henley says:

    BTW, South Africa’s homicide rate has fallen in half in the last 20 years – it’s the crime statistic most resistant to fudging, making it the best proxy for overall crime rates. South Africa also only began phasing out leaded gasoline via regulation in 2006, so its prospects for further long term crime reduction are bright.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  18. Jim Henley says:

    @Donald Sensing:

    We could also equally wonder whether the US president would have given such an order were he anyone other than a … well, you get my drift.

    I don’t actually. What combination of adjectives and noun goes where the ellipses are. I’m genuinely unsure.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 16 Thumb down 4

  19. PJ says:

    @Donald Sensing:

    We could also equally wonder whether the US president would have given such an order were he anyone other than a … well, you get my drift.

    So George W Bush was a Catholic? Why else would he have honored Pope John Paul II?
    And Bill Clinton was a Muslim, Arab, and Jew? Why else would he have honored both King Hussein of Jordan and prime minister Yitzhak Rabin?
    And Ronald Reagan must have been a Muslim and Arab, because he honored president Anwar Sadat….

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 0

  20. Jim R says:

    I’m not going to accuse this man of being a racist, because it may be that he actually holds the opinion that it’s wrong to lower the flag for a non-American…which would be dumb, but also not out of character for the jingoistic right.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  21. john personna says:

    I think Mandela is pretty much the Gandhi of our age.

    But that said, I think we’ve taken flag lowering way too far.

    Haven’t they been down as much as up this year?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  22. al-Ameda says:

    @Donald Sensing:

    We could also equally wonder whether the US president would have given such an order were he anyone other than a … well, you get my drift.

    Why, yes.
    Yes I believe I do get the drift {{{wink wink, nudge nudge}}}
    It’s that “race” thing, right?
    Why would anyone be afraid to mention that both Obama and Mandela are Black?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 2

  23. rudderpedals says:

    @Jim R: And that is exactly what the Sheriff was saying. On the other hand it’s sort of an admission against interest/evidence of corrective measures the Sheriff then made the facebook page not-accessible (from here anyway) as if the words were indeed shameful.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  24. Toni Vitanza says:

    Clark is lying or downright wrong. The flag has been lowered for many non-Americans — among them Pope John Paul II, Winston Churchill, the King of Jordan, and the prime minister of Israel. He is blatantly showing disrespect to both President Obama and President Mandela. Wonder why? What do they have in common? He is embarrassing our county and our state. He is insulting our intelligence. A simple Wikipedia search would have shown him that he is wrong. You can choose your opinions; don’t try to choose your facts because there are plenty of people in Pickens County and elsewhere who can find them out.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 3

  25. Leah says:

    @Jim Henley:

    Yes, I was impressed with the Sheriff’s acknowledgement of Mandela’s virtues, and I think your theory is spot on

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  26. Yahtahei says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Don’t you mean one is black and the other is half black??

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 11

  27. Davebo says:

    Frankly if South Carolina lowered the US flag completely I wouldn’t get upset about, just as I’m not really riled up about this.

    Seriously, I have more people living within a 3 mile radius of me than the entire population of Pickens County SC.

    He is obviously doing what he has to do IMO to win roughy 20,000 votes to stay in office. (Pickens county only has a population of less than 120,000).

    Now if my county sheriff who represents and hopefully protects the 4.2 million people in our county pulled something like this then I’d get concerned.

    I say good on you Sheriff Clark! Let your freak flag fly!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  28. JohnMcC says:

    Just a thought: I wonder if we know about Sheriff Clark’s decision because of facebook but that at least dozens of other courthouses across the old Confederate states are flying at full staff.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  29. al-Ameda says:

    @Yahtahei:

    @al-Ameda:
    Don’t you mean one is black and the other is half black??

    Yes, some people are obsessed with race.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  30. bill says:

    @Rock: good point, she did much more for our country than mandela did for us. not that either was a saint or pure evil, i’m Irish and have a “thing” for brits that will never die. obama took the low road with her and appeased the masses with him, as expected.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 9

  31. rudderpedals says:

    @bill: What good did Thatcher do for your country?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  32. al-Ameda says:

    @bill:

    @Rock: good point, she did much more for our country than mandela did for us. not that either was a saint or pure evil, i’m Irish and have a “thing” for brits that will never die.

    The only thing that I can think of that she did for America was in keeping the Argentines from taking over the Falkland Islands, and thereby keeping the Falklands safe for bad food and inferior soccer. Why would we lower our flag for that “accomplishment”?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  33. C. Clavin says:

    @bill:
    Exactly What did she do for us?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  34. bill says:

    @al-Ameda: she was an ally during a very tepid time, and mandela did what for us as a country? i wonder how many of those dying of aids in south africa back then were “happy” with their new found freedom and his “leadership”?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  35. Jim Henley says:

    @bill:

    she was an ally during a very tepid time, and mandela did what for us as a country?

    The 80s were a time of waxing Western unity. For instance, the French, though not official NATO members, were extremely cooperative behind the scenes.

    i wonder how many of those dying of aids in south africa back then were “happy” with their new found freedom and his “leadership”?

    This is asinine. South Africa did not become a paradise for blacks overnight. Gosh. It was not a paradise for blacks under apartheid either. You can cherry-pick any problem you want from any country and pretend it’s uniquely awful. What we notice is that at no point before or since the fall of apartheid has Black South Africa risen to demand the return of white overlordship. That suggests a certain lack of disappointment in the end of formal racial oppression.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  36. C. Clavin says:

    @bill:
    She was an ally of the US?
    Like what…. Most British PMs aren’t?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  37. C. Clavin says:

    @bill:
    Given your abject racism your comments make sense .
    Otherwise …not so much.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  38. Jim Henley says:

    @Donald Sensing: Your behavior in this thread – drop an implication; skedaddle – bears the marks of cowardice.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  39. al-Ameda says:

    @bill:

    @al-Ameda: she was an ally during a very tepid time, and mandela did what for us as a country? i wonder how many of those dying of aids in south africa back then were “happy” with their new found freedom and his “leadership”?

    A few questions:
    1. When, in the past 70 years, has Great Britain NOT been an ally of the United States?
    2. Are you saying that Mandela’s leadership caused or somehow resulted in an AIDS epidemic in South Africa?
    3. Are you also saying that most South Africans now regret Mandela’s leadership and now desirous of a return to the “happy” days apartheid?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  40. An Interested Party says:

    Whether it be through outright attacks on Mandela or snide denigrations and insinuations of him, some conservatives are really showing their true colors…fascinating when the mask drops…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  41. grewgills says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Are you saying that Mandela’s leadership caused or somehow resulted in an AIDS epidemic in South Africa?

    He did have a rather shameful start on AIDS. Thankfully he came around on that and it certainly doesn’t come close to overshadowing his accomplishments.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  42. Ron Avallone says:

    Ignorance! Sheriff Clark is right! Our flag rises and falls for only American vet, leo or patriots. So, shut up!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  43. Jim Henley says:

    @Ron Avallone:

    Ignorance! Sheriff Clark is right! Our flag rises and falls for only American vet, leo or patriots. So, shut up!

    NO YOU!!!

    (Sheesh. “Shut up.” What a maroon.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  44. al-Ameda says:

    @Ron Avallone:

    Ignorance! Sheriff Clark is right! Our flag rises and falls for only American vet, leo or patriots. So, shut up!

    Translation: “Bet you didn’t know I’m a conservative.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  45. Jim Henley says:

    @Ron Avallone: For entertainment purposes, I’m curious how you’d define a “patriot” – as distinct from a veteran or cop – for whom the flag should be lowered.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  46. Tyrell says:

    What really was going on here is that the government flag poles there have been around since the 1850′s and those little pulleys have long since rusted up, so lowering the flags might just be hard to do.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  47. Jim Henley says:

    Darnit, I’m beginning to doubt Ron Avallone is going to explain who a patriot is.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  48. Toni Vitanza says:

    @Jim Henley: I think we have a BINGO.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0