A best-selling author based in Seattle thought she may have come across a hot story when she tipped off a newspaper that her neighbor was flying a Confederate flag. She was surprised to learn that the banner was not the controversial stars and bars but the emblem of Norway.
On Feb. 22, The Seattle Times revealed that it had been contacted by Rebecca Morris, a successful writer of true-crime books, about a Confederate flag sighting.
“Hi,” Morris wrote to the newspaper. “Suddenly there is a Confederate flag flying in front of a house in my Greenwood neighborhood.”
The author added that she had not approached her neighbor about the flag.
“I would love to know what this ‘means’ … but of course don’t want to knock on their door. Maybe others in the area are flying the flag? Maybe it’s a story? Thank you.”
The Times journalists investigated the tip and traveled to the Seattle neighborhood, where they spotted the red flag with blue stripes. They then interviewed the homeowner, David Norman Stangeland.
“That’s a Norwegian flag,” Stangeland explained. “It’s been up there since the start of the Olympics.”
Stangeland hung up the flag to mark the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, where Norwegian athletes have so far accrued the most gold medals.
“I’m a proud Norwegian-American,” Stangeland continued. “My parents emigrated here in the mid-1950s. He skippered tugboats.”
Morris was flabbergasted when the Times reporters informed her off the mix-up.
“Are you kidding me?” she responded.
The author acknowledged that she was mistaken and wondered aloud if current political tensions had prompted her to jump to conclusions.
“Maybe that’s the story … we’re so stressed by all things political that we see things that aren’t there,” Morris concluded.
The stars and bars banner was the battle flag flown by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of the Northern Virginia during the Civil War. The symbol has become increasingly polarizing, with defenders asserting that it represents Southern pride while critics contending that it enshrines the slave-owning Confederacy’s racism, according to NPR.
The Norwegian flag bears a resemblance to the Confederate banner and Morris is not the first American to conflate the two emblems.
In October 2012, New York resident Jennifer Tkacz said that she had was contacted by a county executive about complaints made against a supposed Confederate flag on her property. It was actually a Norwegian flag.
“It was embarrassing,” Tkacz told The Lewisboro Ledger. “Every one in the county was asking me if I’m flying a rebel flag.”