The idea for these flags started with me in 2005. We made about 1500 of them for our PEACE RALLY in March 2005, and the first group was made of paper, which took forever to tape to the metal stakes. We put them up for the 2005 PEACE RALLY (after I had asked Asheville Parks and Recreation for permission) and we no sooner had them up when the police came by and made up take them down. They said they could be used as weapons. (The US flags we were putting up, on wooden stakes that were two feet high and had a pointed end, were not considered weapons by our police.) Well, we took them down because we intended to put them up later at UU church in Asheville. We did put them up there and the paper flags lasted until a heavy rain on Wednesday morning. After that, they were toast.
So, I decided to make the same flags but laminate the paper. The picture above is from 2006. Since I had a whole year to get them ready, I made all of them. The WNC Peace Coalition paid for the copies and the laminating materials. I found that we did not need tape to keep them on the metal poles, although sometimes they slide down. The UU church put them back up in March 2006, and in May 2006, so did the UU church in Black Mountain. I tried for a while there to keep up with the death count and have one flag per 100 deaths, but had to give up on that. Too many people have died in Iraq for that metric, so I have updated the sign to say more than 100 fatalities. I made white flags for the Iraqi civilians and blue flags for the US deaths. The UU church in Asheville put them back up in March 2007, and this time the UU church in Clemson put them up in May. I am very appreciative for the UU churches for putting these flags up – and grateful to the WNC Peace Coalition for covering the costs.
Since Salee and her father, Abu Ali, were coming to Asheville this past September, we asked the UU church to put them up again, and they did. Salee and her father visited the flags for quite some time, and I heard they were quite moved. The following Sunday, I went over to the church to help take the flags down and to zip tie them together to store over the winter. I started before the church service was out yet, and I started on the end of the UU yard that was still in the shade. I carefully picked them up, cleaned them off if they had mud on them, and put them in my car. It wasn’t too long before I ran out of shade, and even though it was the end of September, it got quite hot working out there. It also wasn’t too long before several people showed up to help take them down.
While doing this, I realized that I was (at least for now) the Keeper of the Flags. Funny that I see myself as more the “keeper” than the “maker” - but I guess that is because storing them is a bigger challenge than making them. I have since made some more flags, and I could really make LOTS more, but the problem becomes that there are too many to store them or too many to get them put up and taken down in a reasonable time frame. And as long as I can, and as long as I live in the Asheville area, I will remain the Keeper of the Flags.
And I hope some more churches will borrow our flags and put them up in remembrance for all the lives lost in this useless, useless war.