camping world flag.jpg

How big is too big?

When it comes to patriotism, I just assumed the correct answer would have been, “There’s no such thing as too big.” But as it turns out, at least one unacceptable size is 40-by-80.

On Monday, I got an email from Camping World RV Sales. I get these messages on a regular basis now, because a few months ago my wife and I were looking at travel trailers and made the mistake of giving a salesman at the Kaysville RV dealership our contact information.

So now, about once a week, Camping World sends me an email regarding some not-to-be-missed deal on a recreational vehicle.

But this past week’s email was different. Beneath the subject line, “Sign The Petition To Let Us Fly The American FLAG!,” the email read: “This is about more than just the Flag … This is about our Veterans, Military, and the men and women that have sacrificed for this great Country.”

As the email explained, “The City of Statesville, North Carolina, has filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction to require Gander RV in Statesville to take down their American Flag. They are imposing a $50/day fine retroactive to 10/15/18. Many cities like Statesville have requested that Camping World and Gander Outdoors take down their American Flags. WE WON’T DO IT!”

The email then asks its reader to “Stand with us” and “Sign the Petition” on change.org. By late Friday afternoon, like flies to manure, that petition had attracted more than 220,000 signatures.

Now, if this were truly about a business being told by the gub’mint that it was prohibited from flying the American flag, I suppose I could understand all of the manufactured patriotic outrage. But the Camping World email and change.org petition are totally misleading, choosing to omit certain key facts about the incident.

Some folks may be trying to make it sound like the Commies are coming for Old Glory, but the city isn’t telling Gander RV they can’t fly an American flag at their business. They’re simply telling them that they can’t fly a flag so big that it needs its own zip code.

Here’s the full story:

Last June, Gander RV in Statesville (about 40 miles north of Charlotte) applied for, and received, a permit to install a 130-foot-high flagpole that would fly a massive 25-foot-by-40-foot U.S. flag. That’s 1,000 square feet of stars and stripes, people — bigger than the first house my wife and I purchased.

But for Gander RV, that simply wasn’t big enough to contain their feelings for ’Merica. Because two months later, when the flag was raised above the dealership, it turned out to be 40-feet-by-80-feet — more than three times the permitted size of flags in Statesville.

Because, as anyone can tell you, nothing says “I heart America” like buying an RV in the shadow of an almost cartoonishly oversized American flag.

So, when the city saw the business flaunting its ordinances, it began fining Camping World $50 a day, retroactive to Oct. 15, 2018. The company remained defiant.

Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis told Snopes.com: “We will not be taking the flag down under any circumstances. Zero. None. Never going to happen,” later adding, “You can make the fine $500 a day, $1,000 a day, $5,000 a day — I’ll just pay it. It’s that important to me.”

To which, if I’m a city council member in Statesville, I’d say, “Perfect! If it really is that important to you, let’s pass an ordinance making the fine for being out of compliance $5,000 a day.”

Seriously, they should take the man at his word; it’s a win-win situation. The city gets $1.8 million a year to bolster its budget, and Camping World gets to continue to wear its patriotism on its grossly oversized sleeve.

Think about it: That $1.8 million figure is roughly one-fifth of the Statesville Police Department’s annual budget. And since law enforcement is another dog-whistle issue for these flag-waving Americans, I’m sure our boys and girls in blue would be eternally grateful for the company’s daily $5,000 donation to the city’s public safety coffers.

Camping World did get one thing partly right in their fabricated controversy. This absolutely is about much more than just the flag. But that “more” is not what they claim it is: It’s not about veterans, or the military, or the men and women that have sacrificed for this great country.

Rather, it’s about capitalism. Selling stuff. In this case, recreational vehicles.

The truth is, Camping World instinctively understands what the NFL had to learn the hard way — nothing sells quite like unbridled patriotism. Are you kidding? Pretending to stand bravely against a faceless bureaucratic city that seemingly hates our American flag and all that it stands for?

You just can’t buy that kind of advertising.

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or msaal@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Friend him on Facebook at facebook.com/MarkSaal.

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!