Flag Flap

Tuomi-HeaderIn a letter to the Windsor Star’s editor on July 11, John Dignan offers a number of reasons why the so-called big flag, which is not even that big but will cost thousands of dollars to grace the city’s riverfront, is a bad idea.

He has only hit on a few of this archaic misadventure in misdirected civic boosterism. It is simply a narcissistic one-upmanship stunt to show Toronto who is boss.

Dignan remembers back in 2005 when the art gallery put a sign on the riverfront telling visitors they had, “… left the American sector.”

It was a good idea, nicely symbolic, and appealing to 21st century sensitivities. It might even have made a few Facebook posts. Rightly, Dignan called it a cultural snipe at American jingoism that the city’s council, never known to do anything original, ordered removed.

Its members should do the same with the less than grand flag and get busy doing something to support their town.

Windsor is facing an extreme tourism challenge. Once the Windsor bypass opens, known to some as the Gordie Howe Bridge, Americans will forget about inching their way along traffic congested Huron Church. They will speedily traverse Highway 401 straight outta town.

Those who have driven its northerly expansion know that little of the city is exposed or seen by those using it.

Already, and perhaps prematurely, the province has abandoned the city by closing down its tourist information shack on Huron Church. Visitors now get their brochures and maps in Tilbury, which is good for Tilbury, but not so good for Windsor.

Putting up a big flapping flag smacks of a city with an alleged inferiority complex trying to show itself as an equal, or better than, the country’s most revered and largest community.

Toronto approved the nation’s tallest flag pole for a new civic square at Finch Avenue West and Highway 400 six years ago. The Toronto Star, on August 26, 2010, expected, “… tourists and schoolchildren will flock to see a Canadian flag as big as a football field.”

As is usual, Windsor’s planned flag will be much smaller and lamer, which questions why it should even be done. As the saying goes, “go big or go home.”

Windsor should stop this nonsense of a flag that gets droopy on non-windy days and is little more than a scaled down version of Toronto’s ambitious plan. Instead Council should copy something Toronto did really well during the Pan Am Games.

The city erected its name, in large illuminated letters, at Nathan Phillips Square. It was an instant hit, making Torontonians proud; quite proud, actually. Windsor could use the same shot in the arm and have its name in big expressive letters on its riverfront.

At least when Americans, who lately can be found flocking to their side of the Detroit River, see the sign they will know Windsor is a bridge or tunnel ride away. If they don’t know, a minor flag of lesser proportions than that envisioned for Toronto, will not help.

At least they can Google Windsor. You can’t currently google a flying flag.

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About the Author

Robert Tuomi
After initially succeeding as a broadcast journalist and achieving senior level assignments, Robert branched out into marketing communications. As a senior executive, primarily in the high-tech industry, Robert created award-winning and comprehensive, multi-faceted initiatives to enhance sales and expand market awareness for some of the largest companies in their fields. Email Robert Tuomi

3 Comments on "Flag Flap"

  1. (From John Dignan via email)

    Hi Robert, The Star excised almost the first half of my letter regarding the Great Canadian Flag Project. Here is my unedited original:

    “To the Editor,
    In 1968, during the terrible Tet Offensive in Vietnam, I tried to order a beer in a dingy Tokyo bar. I was met with great hostility until I barked, “I’m not an American, I’m a Canadian!”

    Many of us are familiar with youthful Canadian backpackers sporting the Maple Leaf and thereby garnering for themselves safer passage than Americans might have expected in their own foreign travels. Indeed, there are reports of Americans using our maple leaf patch to ease their way.

    The shorthand term ‘Ugly American’ arose with the 1958 best seller which then became a film starring Marlon Brando. Americans knew that they had a public relations problem; they know it today. So why would we Windsorites pile on?

    In 2005 the Art Gallery of Windsor sponsored a riverfront sign which said, “YOU HAVE LEFT THE AMERICAN SECTOR”. It was a cultural snipe at American jingoism and was quickly removed.

    Now, under the laudatory guise of patriotism we are preparing to once again poke the bear. In truth, we are proposing to use American style supersizing to needle them while uplifting and congratulating our liberal selves. This is a misuse of our waterfront tableau.

    To block that breathtaking skyscraper view (almost 20,000 northbound vehicles daily) from atop the Ouellette Ave. overpass is an ill-considered business/tourism gambit. Maintaining a positive visual association with downtown Detroit’s ongoing renaissance can only benefit us.

    Canadians are respected worldwide for our decades of quiet diplomacy, yet this immense flag will be noisy. Oversizing it risks cultural sniping against our neighbour, economic partner, and paymaster. It is bad public policy for our nation and our city.”

    Beyond the critique in the above letter we should be aware that we are proposing to grant permanent ‘pride of place’ to this flag on arguably the most expensive piece of land this side of London, if not Toronto. What is to stop other well intentioned citizens from gaining access to this site for purposes of permanently placing statues, monuments, art works, etc.?

    Bert Weeks fought long and hard to preserve the purity of the waterfront – I wonder if he would have approved of this venture.

    Windsor/Detroit is probably the most economically important international border crossing in the western hemisphere. From where did we 215K Windsorites get the right to speak for the rest of our 36M nation?

    Would a beleaguered Oshawa appreciate our little statement to the GM executives across the river?

    Are there xenophobic executives at Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn who might cunningly judge this minor irritating pinprick as one of many quiet reasons to further reduce production in Windsor?

    Windsor, of all places, should do everything possible to placate the Americans.

  2. The flag is a good thing, just do it.

  3. We want the flag.Get it done ASAP.

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