As anyone remotely interested in flags knows, this week has seen a tremendous amount of public interest in Confederate flags and their changing meanings — scrutiny and re-evaluation that has resulted in prominent retailers like Walmart and major flag manufacturers like Annin announcing they will no longer carry these flags. (For comprehensive coverage, see Richard Gideon’s American Vexillum postings.)
Here in Portland, this led to our largest flag maker and retailer Elmer’s Flag and Banner being featured in The Oregonian. Headlined Flag store owner wrestles with decision to remove Confederate flags, in it journalist Anna Marum interviews at some length Dave Anchel, the owner of Elmer’s about the complex tensions between serving the market as a business, representing the world of flags as a kind of public archive, and following one’s conscience as a community member and individual.
The article is well worth reading; here is an excerpt:
When Anchel bought the store in 2011, he was appalled to see it sold the Confederate flag.
“We sell that?” he remembers thinking. “Why do we sell that? That flies in the face of everything I stand for. Get it out of here.”
But slowly, Anchel came to understand that the store, which carries flags of every country in the world – as well as those from the War of 1812 and the American Revolution – was a historical archive of sorts.
“When you have a flag store you’re going to carry things you don’t like,” he said. “Because if you didn’t, you wouldn’t be true to the completeness of the collection. If you go to any flag store anywhere in the country, it’s the same dilemma.”
(As a further indication of the current public interest in flags, the article has garnered 877 comments — a level of engagement usually reserved for complaining about city government.)
We look forward to hearing more from Dave at a future PFA meeting. We are living in vexillologically interesting times!