Ethics Dunce AND Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Hancock, Maryland Mayor Ralph Salvagno [Corrected]

This would be unethical if a child did it. For a town’s mayor to do it would be head explosion-worthy, except that the behavior of municipal leaders during the George Floyd Freakout has been so constantly outrageous that it has raised the bar for “Kabooms.”

I guess that’s a silver lining.

Ralph Salvagno, the mayor of Hancock, Maryland, (population 1500 or so) painted over two images of the Confederate battle flag in a privately-owned mural on a wall outside the Town Tavern.

“I think I did the right thing,”said Salvagno.

He’s wrong, and he’s also an idiot.

Though the mural was in bad shape even before Salvagno’s vandalism, its message is no more and no less than that there was an American Civil War. See those triangles pointing in on the two flags in the drawing? They mean that the North and the South were fighting each other. The flags of the opposing sides symbolize the Union and the Confederacy. The artwork (and there are hundreds of similar, if better, such paintings) tells onlookers that there was an American Civil War, and, you know, there was. In addition to preserving the United States of America, that horrible conflict also ended slavery, and began the long road of recovery for American blacks and the nation. Americans need to know about that war, and understand it.

The Hancock mural may be cheesy, but all reminders of our history are useful. Lately there have been episodes where foolish officials have behaved as if the mere mention of one of the most important events in American history is “offensive.” Last week, the University of Oregon and Oregon State University announced that they will no longer refer to games between their athletic teams in their long-standing rivalry as the “Civil War,” because, UO director of athletics Rob Mullens said in a meaningless statement, “We must all recognize the power of words and the symbolism associated with the Civil War.”

Salvagno’s reasoning for destroying the property was rock-dumb but familiar. The mayor said he is concerned about the message conveyed by the flag, and that the images could have sparked anger if the George Floyd mobs came  to the small town.

First, what “message?” When Confederate flags are represented in context, as in the mural, the message is “this is a Confederate flag, as flown by the Confederate forces.” That’s a fact. When the flag is used by groups showing opposition to the federal government, the law, or civil rights, that’s a message. If a mayor is so dim that he can’t understand the difference, he should retire to running a bait shop.

Second, and I’ll ignore the point that the likelihood of a Black Lives Matter hoard descending on tiny Hancock is vanishingly tiny, if a town preemptively suppresses art and expression that “someone” might find offensive or that might spark real or contrived “anger,” that is prior restraint of free speech. It also allows fear and intimidation to overwhelm personal liberties. It is an elected official’s duty to oppose such conduct, not participate in it.

The mural’s owner, Billie Jean Fisher, told police that her late father had the wall put up and its artwork painted.

Hancock’s mayor is now facing criminal charges. Good.

Maybe he can get elected mayor of Denver.

21 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce AND Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Hancock, Maryland Mayor Ralph Salvagno [Corrected]

  1. So he painted over the little Rebel flag and completely ignored the huge one in the background. Does he need to see the entirety of an image before recognizing it?

    And did he even ask?

    • I confess: I never saw the huge flag that makes up the background either. I was always bad at those puzzles where you had to ID a photo or painting from a small piece, but in my (and his) defense, it’s not exactly accurate. I can’t find a version of the flag that matches that design, but there is no question that you’re right.

      • Cracked me up as well. The mayor should have had to paint out EVERYTHING other than the United States flag if he wanted to keep the hoards away from Hancock. Hilarious. Homer Simpson worthy.

  2. There’s a reason my dad and I are starting to seriously practice with our pistols. You simply can’t count on the authorities to protect you any more. If some troop of idiots come looking to sacrifice us on the altar of wokeness, we’re going down fighting.

  3. “Second, and I’ll ignore the point that the likelihood of a Back Lives Matter hoard descending on tiny Hancock is vanishingly tiny…”

    Back Lives Matter sounds like a good name for a chiropractor convention.

  4. That mayor is Dr. Ralph Salvagno an orthopedic doctor in Washington County, MD. He treats my neighbor.

    The sign at Town Tavern has been there for years without incident. The mayor claimed he got complaints from other business owners on Main street which to me is a non-starter and a pretty damn lame excuse for vandalism. Just up the street is the Town Hall. I wonder his reaction if it was adorned with BLM images.

    It is not unlikely that BLM operatives or sympathizers will descend on Hancock. The Western Maryland Rail Trail has been defaced with BLM imagery. If the DC elite who come up to Hancock decide to do so to protest rather than enjoying the Rail Trail or C&O Canal they will be met by a bunch of angry, gun owning, folks that “don’t much cotton city dwellers messen up their town”.

      • So funny the mural is in Maryland. Maryland was in the Union and West Virginia, just below Hancock, broke away from Virginia to join the Union War. But I believe some of my relatives in Berkeley Springs, W. Va. were literally “brother against brother” during the war. I’m surprised the mural featured the Stars and Bars so prominently, though. Does that imply the South should have won? Funny seeing that in Maryland but perhaps not?

        By the way, I’ve always thought of Hancock as a big town because, before cars, it (or Hagerstown or Martinsburg) was where people from Berkeley Springs went if they wanted to go to “a big town” or catch the C&O on it’s way to Washington D.C. or Chicago or the rest of the country.

  5. First, reading the article I noticed that not only did he paint over the mural, he did it under cover of darkness. That tells me he knew what he what he was doing was wrong — it should be offered in evidence if he ever actually gets to face those (misdemeanor) charges.

    Second, reading some of the comments following the article makes me even more appreciative of the reasonably civil atmosphere of the commentariat on this blog — everyone here should pat themselves on the back. Neither side on those comments come off really well, but I must say the BLM and supporters come off as especially incoherent. If there was a gong for rudeness — like the ones you see at the county fair — they would have hit the top.

  6. > …that is prior restraint of free speech. It also allows fear and intimidation to overwhelm personal liberties. It is an elected official’s duty to oppose such conduct, not participate in it.

    For a second, I did a double take at this paragraph to make sure it wasn’t about this story:

    Luckily for the mayor and the Democratic media, some neighbors exercising their Second Amendment rights to impose prior restraint on vandalism under the cover of protest have captured the headlines, not the mayor’s conduct.

  7. Well, now the painting will be so much more educational, telling about the long and victorious conflict against Red China, that’s so much more acceptable now to censors, right?

    It doesn’t look very beautiful on technical skills or artistic merit. I think a good sentence is for this mayor, who must have been lying that he understood freedom of speech from the Constitution and private property is that he must pay for TWO expensive replacement murals FROM HIS OWN FUNDS. No donations, crowd-funding, or public funding. No state or city laws defends censoring like this so he’s not allowed to use anyone else’s money. And probation is that any future graffiti pf the mural means he has to keep rebooting it if the culprits are not repairing it. Too many official get out of paing consequences and fines when they cost the taxpayers when the break the law in office…

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