Friday, July 27, 2012
By Ben Beagle
BATAVIA — The American flag is temporarily located in the back row of the Bicentennial War of 1812 Honorary Peace Garden so that it can be illuminated at night, said Barb Toal, project manager for the Garden.
Plans are to eventually move the American flag to the front of the garden, which is in Paolo Busti Park on West Main Street, adjacent to the Holland Land Office Museum. But before the flag can be moved, Toal said, the garden needs a means to provide light for flags at the front of the garden.
The U.S. Flag Code, which provides uniform guidelines for the respectful display of the flag, allows for the flag to be flown 24 hours a day if the flag is properly illuminated during the hours of darkness. The code is a recommendation; there are no civil or criminal penalties for not following the code.
“I have total respect for the American flag. That’s why veterans groups were immediately brought in. We didn’t want any problems,” Toal said. “To me, having the flag be lit was an important obligation and in its current position, the flag is illuminated at night.”
Without the light source, the flag code recommends the flag be raised at sunrise and lowered at sunset.
Toal said Peace Garden organizers are working with National Grid to get power to the site, but do not have a timetable for when such a project would be undertaken. Additional landscape work is planned in August, and Toal hoped that work could be done in conjunction with the providing the electricity needs.
“We are at the mercy of National Grid. It is not a simple process and we are doing what we can to speed the process along,” Toal said.
Plans are to eventually have illumination for all 20 flags at the Peace Garden, which was dedicated May 6.
When illumination for the front of the garden is available, the intent is to move the U.S. and Canadian flags to the front of the Peace Garden, which was created to honor the long-standing friendship between the United States and Canada that was forged following the War of 1812 fought between the two nations. The new arrangement would place the American flag on the left and the Canadian flag on the right. Organizers would like to be able to illuminate the U.S. flag with its own light source, Toal said.
“We are grateful for (the veterans’) tolerance on this matter and would appreciate the same from the general public. … National Grid is working with us to get this done in a timely fashion,” Toal wrote this week in an email response to recent questions about the placement of the U.S. flag.
Peace Gardens are created as a means to advance global friendships and international understanding. But the positioning of the U.S. flag in the Peace Garden has been the topic of debate since soon after the Garden’s dedication. The debate was renewed following a July 21 letter to the editor of The Daily News written by Lucille Hudson of Batavia.
“Every time I drive by it, it is an unsettling source of irritation and deep concern,” Hudson wrote. “I feel that our flag, the U.S. flag, should be distinguished above all the other flags.”
“I am sure the other countries’ flags do not take a back-row seat in their country,” she wrote.
Each of the flags in the Peace Garden is displayed at the same height, including the American flag, which in May prompted some to wonder if the presentation was a breach of flag etiquette.
The Flag Code often recommends that the U.S. flag be flown higher than other flags or pennants. However, the code also says that “when flags of two or more nations are displayed, they are to be flown from separate staffs of the same height. The flags should be of approximately equal size.
“International usage forbids the display of the flag of one nation above that of another nation in time of peace,” the code said.
One commenter on Hudson’s letter at thedailynewsonline.com suggested that the international usage section of the code does not apply to the Peace Garden. Toal, in an email, seemed to agree with that statement.
“There is NO specific rule applying to our Peace Garden,” she wrote in an email, “as the flags are placed randomly throughout our ‘Grove of Peace.’”
In a follow-up interview, Toal said the International Peace Garden Foundation does not have guidelines to address the placement of flags. The Foundation encourages random placement of flags, likely a symbolic gesture to represent peace and equality among the nations.