A South Carolina sheriff has refused to lower the American flag to honor former South African president Nelson Mandela, arguing that the singular leader was not an American. Mandela died Thursday at the age of 95.
The decision by Pickens County Sheriff Rick Clark essentially ignores an executive order from President Obama calling on all flags at the White House, public buildings and grounds, military posts, naval stations and naval vessels to remain lowered through sunset Monday evening out of respect for Mandela, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Clark reportedly said that the honor should be reserved for Americans. “The flag at half-staff is for Americans’ ultimate sacrifice for our country,” Clark told the Greenville News. “We should never stray away from that.”
He also told the Greenville News that “I’ve always liked [Mandela] and been very proud of what he’s done,” but, he insisted, the honor should be “reserved for Americans.”
Clark’s decision elicited a range of reactions. “Many are saying it plays right into stereotypes about the racist South,” the Times writes. “Others acknowledge Clark’s point, but conclude that Mandela is a special case: ‘Lower the flag … be a human being,’ said one post on the sheriff department’s Facebook page.”
But some commenters on his personal Facebook page supported the action: “Proud of you for standing your ground Sheriff, keep up the good work!”
Read more at the Los Angeles Times.