The America Flag weathered heavy winds in the press this past week.
First, at my Alma Mater, the University of California, Irvine, students wanted to ban the flag from public spaces on campus. Then, in a controversial photograph by United States Veteran Vanessa Hicks captured a picture of a baby swaddled in the Star Spangled Banner, held tightly in the hands of a soldier in military fatigues. Critics assailed the picture as disrespectful, while supporters enjoyed the moving beauty of the still life.
Regarding the offensive ban: has UC Irvine turned into an academy of un-learning, that focuses on deconstruction and misconstruing the relationships between individuals and their environments? The university student body’s latest descent into amoral confusion would be funny, if not so outrageous and offensive.
How did the Star Spangled Banner offend the student government, ASUCI (Associated Students at UCI)? They indicted the American flag’s nationalist elements, including its connections to colonialism and imperialism, along with discussions about cultural mythologies and narratives that in turn charge nationalistic sentiments.
Flags represent nations. No surprise there. The fact that elected college students waste their time on the obvious should alarm not just voting taxpayers, but the parents of these misguided (or dis-guided) youth.
The student body took exception to American Exceptionalism:
Whereas a common ideological understanding of the United states [sic: none of these kids could employ an editor?] includes American exceptionalism [also needs to be capitalized] and superiority.
In the same resolution, the students recognized a flag’s manifold meanings. Why focus on these marginal negatives? This country’s meager colonial history included territories which became autonomous member-states (Alaska, Hawaii) or choose their status under the Star Spangled Banner (Puerto Rico, American Samoa).
Another history lesson: during the Mexican-American War, Mexicans wanted to join the United States, and President James K. Polk was angling to grant their request. Losing control of Congress in 1846, however, Polk settled for The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, for he feared alienating the public and not acquiring any territory from the Mexican-American War.
Over one hundred years ago, international migrants yearning for freedom recognized that the United States was an exceptional country. Today immigrants around the world see the Land of Opportunity. Yes, America is exceptional, and that’s the truth (convenient or inconvenient). The moving of millions of feet proves this: The United States is a superior country, certainly compared to migrants’ home countries.
Why would students in a liberal institution (where “liberal education” neither liberates nor educates) want to suppress freedom of speech, which includes the liberty to embrace and celebrate one’s nationality?
Their final resolution defies logic, and invites nothing but mockery and disdain for this eclectic group of uneducated idiots:
Whereas freedom of speech is a valued right that ASUCI supports.
Whereas freedom of speech, in a space that aims to be as inclusive as possible can be interpreted as hate speech.
Let it be resolved that ASUCI make every effort to make the Associated Students main lobby space as inclusive as possible.
Let it further be resolved that no flag, of any nation, may be hanged on the walls of the Associate Student main lobby space.
Let it be further be resolved that if a decorative item is in the Associate student lobby space and issues arise, the solution will be to remove the item if there is considerable request to do so.
Freedom of speech is not about physical space, since the minds of man know no limits to share or comprehend. Thought is free, and space is unlimited, even by force. How can freedom of speech become hate speech, but in the minds of an elite few who determine what one may or may not speak, hear, or refrain from speaking? How can anyone claim inclusiveness by excluding images?
The Orwellian double-speak is mind-numbing. Should California taxpayers foot the bill for such unpatriotic folly? These students may remove the flag from their rooms. They can even burn the flag. They have neither right nor authority to prevent others from promoting the flag. In their unjustified resentment toward the Star Spangled Banner, these students forget that under same flag (give or take a few stars), American militia defeated the Colonial British Army, American military pushed them back again in 1812. Under the American flag, Iraqi residents waved with joyful abandon when Saddam Hussein was toppled. It covers the coffins of men and women who fell from Yorktown to Kabul. The banner honorably waves above schools, cities, and our states, for the integrity of local governments would not exist without those victories under the Red, White, and Blue.
To an uneducated group of students, exploiting freedom of speech in a post-secondary institution to suppress freedom of speech, the American Flag is a banner of repression. To many, this flag is not a band of bondage, but a banner of freedom, a beacon which beckons to all that the Last, Great Hope on earth still lasts, and is still great.
For a clear, convincing, and contrasting display to ASUCI’s feckless irresolve, consider Vanessa Hicks’ touching photograph of her friend’s newborn. Swaddled in the American flag, borne in the hands which bore her, the baby rests peacefully, cared for while carried in the flag. If anyone seeks symbolism, Hicks’ photo is lightning written with grace and truth. The flag becomes so much in so slight a photo, a signal that peaceful liberty reigns through strength, and that national might is nothing without the right which defines it. Such were the sentiments of Francis Scott Key of his anthem: “The Star Spangled Banner.” Such is the moving emphasis of Hicks’ photo.
In the wake of this week’s American Flag controversy, We the People debate, and hold others accountable for their opinions. Where else can anyone speak freely for or against the flag, without fear of repression or retribution? Only in America, the Beautiful, the Exceptional, the Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave (like Vanessa Hicks and the veterans whom she honored).