Perhaps you have heard something of the brouhaha at UC Irvine? I like the word brouhaha – the sound well evokes the meaning and in this case I think it is a perfect fit. They are having a brouhaha about the American flag. Probably you know that because it has been in the news a fair bit for the last week or so. I am often happy to weigh in on controversy, controversy is good because it gives you something to opine about if you like to write and don’t have a constant stream of creativity pouring forth from your fingers (or your brain). But I also like to sit back a bit and watch as the facts unfold, rarely it is as simple as the first article sounds and it takes some back and forth from the various involved parties to get to something that might maybe have happened and on which I am willing to share my thoughts.
Here in summary is what I understand to be the situation: the student governing body had flags of many countries in their meeting room. The America flag held a spot of prominence in the center of the display. Someone took the American flag down, someone else put it back up and so on until the governing body acknowledged that the American flag could be seen as offensive (history of colonialism, etc.) to students of other nations and thus it would be taken down with all of the other flags. Cue brouhaha.
The right of the political spectrum has gone berserk, the left of the political spectrum is blathering about free speech, the flag has been returned to the middle as of the last I heard. I like to think of myself as fairly moderate on most issues, I swing left toward libertarian on social stuff and right toward conservative on certain fiscal policy so I think that means I’m a middler. And also I am an American. I am a citizen of the United State with all of the good and bad that entails. If I don’t like something my government is doing I write letters, I sign petitions, I stand on the corner with a sign and I vote. I don’t say, “I don’t agree with that policy therefore I am no longer an American.” That is what four year olds do when they don’t get their way. Grown-ups in a democracy participate – that’s what you are supposed to do at any rate.
So is the American flag offensive? Well it’s just a flag so no. But does it stand for such terrible things that it must be removed from the very sight of people in America. I think not. I think it should be seen more, not just be one group on the political spectrum and I think we should pledge allegiance to it more (which they don’t do in most schools anymore because of the God thing and also because some people took offense at the rest of the words). Here it is, be warned: I pledge allegiance to the flag and to the United States of America, and to the republic for which is stands, one nation [under God], indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Is that really offensive? Liberty and justice for everyone really doesn’t seem awful. Of course we don’t always get it right, of course this is a stretch goal for which we are always striving, but when we say it, when we see it we are reminded of the goal and the need to abide by the principals. Is there another nation on earth, is there a nation from which someone is offended by this that has done better than we? I’m not saying “good enough” and I am not saying we’re done. I’m saying it’s a good goal and we should keep trying, consciously and collectively and with kindness to our fellow beings.
Also here’s the other important part of this story. The people presumable offended by the presence of the flag and what it stands for came to this country willingly. They were not forced, they were not compelled and they are not being held against their will. They are visiting our nation because it has something that they want, that they could not get at home, to wit an education in America. Do me a favor, don’t come to my house and then proceed to tell me how I have to get rid of things that are important to the very fabric of my being because they offend you. No one made you come here. If you don’t like some of what America is doing or has done get involved, get political, take action, be engaged – but don’t be rude and ungrateful.
There is plenty wrong with this great nation, but there is also plenty right. There are a lot of people who are trying hard to help us achieve the lofty goals that we have been striving for these two hundred plus years. That’s a thing to get on board with, that’s a thing to salute and to take pride in, the mistakes should be seen, they should be learned from and we have far to go yet on this journey. And if you don’t want to get on board and be part of the solution that’s okay, get off the bus, but you don’t get to slash the tires.