Turnpike flag rule enough to make you take an alternate route (Opinion)
It's all about the timing, and the timing couldn't be worse for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to remove American flags from bridges and overpasses that were put there in honor of our veterans after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, the anniversary of which takes place this Friday.
Why after 19 years of leaving them be did they decide to take them down?
Here's the Turnpike Authority's statement from its Facebook page on why it's doing this:
"The New Jersey Turnpike Authority appreciates and applauds patriotism. We try to express patriotism ourselves every day by maintaining dozens of American flags at properties in our right of way — office buildings, toll plazas, service areas, maintenance facilities, State Police buildings, warehouses. Those flags are treated with the utmost respect by Turnpike Authority personnel. They are flown on suitable staffs. They are illuminated at night. They are lowered to half-staff when the state is in mourning. They are removed, properly destroyed, and promptly replaced when they become faded or worn and are no longer suitable symbols of our national ideals.The long-standing policy of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority has been to prohibit the display of any flags, signs, or banners by private parties on Turnpike Authority property. While we appreciate the desire of some New Jersey residents to express their patriotism in these turbulent times by displaying flags on Turnpike and Parkway overpasses, Turnpike Authority regulations do not allow it, and for good reason. The Turnpike and Parkway run through more than 100 municipalities and include more than 1,100 bridges and other structures. The NJTA cannot adequately monitor flags mounted by private citizens to make sure they are safely and securely hung, properly displayed, and respectfully maintained. While we hope that everyone who wants to display the American flag finds a suitable location to do so, we believe that limiting the flags displayed on Turnpike Authority property to ones hung and maintained by Turnpike Authority staff is the best way to assure that all flags in the Turnpike and Parkway right of way are treated with the respect they deserve."
I can see the NJTA's point, but why now after all these years and at a time when we desperately need to see the American flag displayed anywhere? Personally, I like looking up and seeing the flag when I'm driving on the Turnpike. I'd much rather see that than many of the billboard ads I'm bombarded with. Now, when I look up expecting to see the flag, instead I'll be seeing the reason why I can't see the American flag. How patriotic is that?
There is a solution here. If the New Jersey Turnpike Authority feels it can't maintain the flags posted by police and veterans group, then work out an official agreement with those groups to maintain their flags. They're already doing it.
Also, stipulate that no other flags can be flown to prevent further problems down the road. This could actually bring people together instead of driving them apart. But why do that when you can do this? It is the law.
I have to give Gov. Phil Murphy credit (and how often do I do THAT?), because he asked the NJTA to stop taking down the flags. This was the right call by the governor and I hope that they can come to an agreement that will keep the American flag on our overpasses and bridges.
Here's some of my social media followers' feelings on this matter.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Steve Trevelise. Any opinions expressed are Steve's own. Steve Trevelise is on New Jersey 101.5 Monday-Thursday from 7pm-11pm. Follow him on Twitter @realstevetrev.
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