The father of the World's Greatest Grandchildren phoned me on Wednesday night. "Have you heard what the Iranian foreign minister had to say about Canada's role in getting six of our diplomats out of his country?" he asked in incredulous tones.

"He's hollering foul," Walter went on without giving me a chance to reply. "He's complaing about a violation of international law. Imagine that! Goatsbidet, or whatever his name is, is accusing the Canadians of being sneaky and underhanded!

"Now there's an evaluation from an expert, a genuine authority on uncivilized behavior, a man who really knows a violation of international law when he sees one. Having that man accuse you of duplicity is like being called naughty by Bonnie and Clyde, or having Howard Cosell tell you that you talk too much. It's like being considered as exaggerator by a used car salesman. The guy is just beyond belief. I sure hope you write something that will cut him a new wavelength."

"No," I said sadly. "The only thing I can say about him, about his ayatollah, or about the rest of Iran's leadership is that I do not understand them or the things they do."

I have never encountered people of this kind before. I cannot relate their behavior to anything I am familiar with. And at this point I am afraid I am rapidly losing interest in even trying to understand them.I just wish we could find the right words for getting this mule's attention.

If our words continue to prove ineffective, we will eventually be driven to try more traditional techniques for dealing with a balky mule.

And if it ever comes to that, a lot of people will be sorry. A lot of others will be beyond sorrow. OUR BEST SYMBOL

We Americans have done many things to show our support for the hostages. We have sent them thousands of greeting cards. We have written thousands of protest letters to the Iranian Embassy here. We have tied yellow ribbons to trees and utility poles.

Now word arrives that a new gesture is catching on -- one that deserves widespread publicity.

Corliss Bradley of Falls Church informs me that many householders have begun displaying the American flag every day -- in the windows of their homes, from porches and flagpoles, from automobiles -- in short, wherever display of the flag is appropriate. This is one symbol that even foreigners recognize as an indication of national unity. "There are seven nationalities represented on my block alone," says Mrs. Bradley. "I have been flying the flag ever since I saw a display of Americans flags on North Virginia Avenue in Falls Church. Every house on that street was flying a flag. It was a truly impressive sight."

Lets spread the word.

Foreigners dream and scheme and save their money for years to come to the United States. Some risk their lives to get here.

When they finally reach our shores, they revel in the friendly warmth of a benign flag under which there is boundless opportunity, plus the freedom to pursue it.

We natives, meanwhile, tend to take our blessings for granted. We see every flaw in the fabric of American life but are too blind to notice or appreciate the great banner that shields us and makes us the envy of the world.

Come on, District Liners. Let's show our flag in every appropirate place and on every appropriate occasion until the hostages are safely home. Let's fly it with pride. AND NOW THE NEWS

Bennett Moser Willis writes, "The Marines tiptoed ashore during war maneuvers in New England to avoid messing up the beach. Sounds like Jerry Brown is already in the White House."

Vagrant thought: To make the training exercise more realistic, the Marines should have been required to file an environmental impact statement before they went to war. Unless our fighting men learn to do their paperwork quickly, they could be overrun by a real enemy while they're still searching for carbon paper. ORBENISMS

Bob Orben writes, "If the White House is serious about making food a weapon, our company cafeteria could be another Manhattan Project."

Bob is so gun-shy he has joined a new religious group that doesn't believe in getting involved. It's called Jehovah's Bystanders.

One thing he really hates, though, is "paying a hard-cover price to see a movie based on a paperback book." VAGRANT THOUGHT

How come there were so many flakes in Iran even before it began to snow there?