“That flag has been bloodied, torn and soiled on countless battlefields and has always been picked up. There is never an excuse for it coming down,” Bowling Green resident Eric Phelps said in reference to Mayor Bruce Wilkerson’s secretive decision to order the American flag off of city properties on Friday.
Phelps couldn’t be anymore on target in reference to Wilkerson’s cowardly actions. On Friday, citizens like Phelps and others noticed that the flag was taken down at City Hall, the Bowling Green Police Department and on Fountain Square. Phelps to his credit contacted Wilkerson on Friday and asked him why the flag was taken down and Wilkerson said he could tell him but it would have to be confidential and Phelps refused to have an off-the-record conversation with Wilkerson.
In turn Phelps went and got an American flag and proudly hoisted it back up on the flag pole at City Hall where it belonged. From there others followed, as three men were seen at the Bowling Green Police Department hoisting the flag back up on the pole there and a little later Bowling Green resident and Army veteran Michael Montgomery joined a few people on the square to watch a man raise the American flag up the pole.
Wilkerson’s actions have sparked much outrage in our community, on our newspaper’s website and other social media outlets, and rightfully so. The mayor claimed on Friday that he took them down to protect them from outside groups that he thought were coming through our town.
Those groups never came through our town and even if they did Wilkerson should’ve ordered his police force to protect city property and the American flags on city property if these outside groups tried to cause harm to either of them.
Sadly, he backed down and in doing so hurt a lot of people with his actions, especially veterans who were outraged that Wilkerson took the flags down that they fought to defend.
He owes not only veterans an immediate apology, but also all of our citizens he offended with his cowardly actions.
Wilkerson’s shoddy actions were a slap in the face to all veterans in our community. Many of those veterans and others turned up at City Hall on Friday and Saturday waving American flags and expressing their outrage at him.
They know, unlike the mayor does, that when faced with conflict you never lower the American flag, you fly it proudly and if these outside groups try to take it down you order your police force to arrest them immediately.
Wilkerson’s actions on Friday were one of a weak leader who caved into something that may have involved conflict. Strong leaders stand up to conflict, they don’t back away from it.
Wilkerson’s handling of the situation in secrecy and not consulting the Bowling Green City Commission of his decision shows a total lack of transparency. Before taking matters into his own hands as he did, he should’ve consulted the commission and got their thoughts on what to do and he should’ve told the citizens of our community why the flags were taken down from the onset.
The citizens of our community and this newspaper that broke this story shouldn’t have been the ones to inform the public, although that is part of our job and we were glad to do so, it should’ve been Wilkerson who informed the public. He only did so through a prepared statement only after the flags started going back up, this newspaper exposed his actions and he heard and saw the outrage from many in our community.
Again, these are the signs of a very weak leader.
Let’s not forget this is the same mayor who three years ago secretly removed two historical markers from Fountain Square, one simply denoting that Bowling Green was the Confederate Capital of Kentucky, which it was, and another marker of the Spanish-American War without a vote by the city commission or a vote or input from our citizens. Wilkerson said at the time he had heard information that outside groups were coming into town to protest these markers, but an open records request filed at the time with the BGPD showed that no one had sought permission to protest these markers.
Pertaining to the American flag, in wartime the lowering of one side’s flags signified surrender. We believe Wilkerson’s action sent the unintended message that our nation’s flag was not worth defending.
We would argue and we believe most of our citizens would argue that the Stars and Stripes is very worthy of defending.
In talking about his actions last week, Wilkerson said that “one good thing I can find in this is that it shows the true patriots in our community I’m proud to be part of.”
It did not take Wilkerson’s actions to reveal the patriots in our community, and patriots do not take flags down.
It’s worth noting that during America’s Civil War soldiers on both sides of that conflict considered their battle flags worth fighting for and even dying for. More Medals of Honor were awarded for capturing enemy battle flags than for any other category of heroism during that tragic conflict.
Citizens of this community and our veterans in particular want our nation’s flag defended. Most of all they don’t want our flag lowered and hidden simply because some group or others might be coming to Bowling Green with ill intent.
These are not Kentucky values and Wilkerson should’ve known that.