Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Association rules

This morning's news brought me a real head-shaker.
I read about Marlene and Richard Gano, who live in a condo on the west side of Canton, Ohio, near where I grew up. In the window of their modest home hangs a Blue Star Flag, honoring the military service of their son, MSgt. Richard Gano Jr.

MSgt. Gano, like his father before him, serves his country in the U.S. Army. He's a career soldier, now 55 years old. He was injured during a tour in Iraq and currently is stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

The Service Flag -- bearing a blue star denoting a family member on active duty, or a gold star representing a family member who died during military service -- actually originated right here in Ohio. It was designed in 1917 by U.S. Army Capt. Robert Queisser, Fifth Ohio Infantry, and the banner's popularity spread beyond the Cleveland area throughout the state and eventually nationwide.

A few weeks ago, REM Commercial Association Management, the outfit that manages the Central Commons Condominiums, sent the Ganos a letter informing them that displaying a Blue Star Flag violates the condo association's rules. Along with an order to remove the offending flag immediately was a threat that the couple would be fined $50.00 for each day that they failed to comply.

Marlene and Richard Gano, bless their fiercely independent hearts, refused to take down the Blue Star Flag they'd been flying since 2006. And thanks to overwhelming public backlash against REM's action, yesterday the management company reversed its decision, saying that it'll allow the Ganos to continue to fly their flag.

Allow? How bloody freakin' magnanimous of REM to allow a family to honor a son, a soldier, a man who's fighting for its freedom to make silly-ass rules.

It should never have come to that, of course. A disturbing question remains on the table -- what the hell is going on here?

I've lived in two different condos and I know all about association rules. I understand the reasons behind the rules (most of them, anyway), but I still hate them, each and every one.

Because condo dwellers, like I was until a few years ago, know what they're getting into when they sign on the dotted line, generally I don't begrudge an association its private-property rights -- unless it infringes on a resident's reasonable display of patriotic pride.
The United States of America is a nation at war -- and even if we weren't, honor and patriotism trump association rules.

Memorial Day, when we commemorate formally the men and women who gave their last full measure of devotion in military service to their country, is less than a week away. I suggest that on Monday morning -- every morning -- independent citizen-patriots, wherever we live, should honor our nation by flying its flag.

As long as I breathe, whether my home is a house, a condo, an apartment or a refrigerator box, no one -- no man, no government and certainly no damnable corporation -- will stand between me and liberty.

To hell with your association rules.