Author’s note: Much of the material from this column was stolen from my friends Kaitlyn and Caleb over at Campus Reform (see www.CampusReform.org). I don’t apologize for the theft. It’s punishment for continuing to associate with people who post foodies on Facebook.
I’ve often said that we should ban the rainbow flag from campus because it’s offensive to conservative Christians, orthodox Jews, and immoderate Muslims (read: Muslims). But I’m only kidding when I say it. I’m simply trying to poke fun at campus administrators who often claim they want to ban offensive speech without considering that much their own speech is offensive to others.
But students in The Associated Students of University of California, Irvine (ASUCI) don’t think that’s funny. They actually think flag banning is a good way to avoid causing discomfort. They recently voted to remove not just the American flag, but also all flags, from an “inclusive” space at UC-Irvine.
The bill was sponsored by Matthew “Not to Be Confused With Che” Guevara. It characterizes all flags as “symbols of patriotism or weapons for nationalism.” It is unclear whether Guevara will sponsor another bill meant to ban students with offensive names that remind people of communist revolutionaries who presided over Cuban concentration camps that housed suspected homosexuals.
The bill sponsored by “Not Che” provides the following justification: “Flags construct paradigms of conformity and sets [sic] homogenized standards for others to obtain which in this country typically are idolized as freedom, equality, and democracy.”
Well, there you have it. In order to keep people from feeling coerced into conformity, we need to ban flags that promote values like freedom.
But the legislation, which argues that flags should be banned - on the basis of what they typically represent to the average person - goes on to state that flags may be banned because they may be interpreted differently. For example, flags can represent “American exceptionalism and superiority.”
To sum up what we have thus far; flags may be banned because they have objective meaning or because they lack objective meaning. The nonsense in the bill continues: “The American flag has been flown in instances of colonialism and imperialism.”
Next, it adds this little hat tip to cultural relativism: “symbolism has negative and positive aspects that are interpreted differently by individuals.”
Here, the ASUCI is coming dangerously close to endorsing the idea that speech is only protected if everyone agrees with it. Imagine the implications for campus debate. People will not debate about the matters on which they agree. There’s nothing to debate. And people will not be allowed to speak about the matters on which they disagree. So every moment in school becomes a moment of silence. When the campus falls silent, hopefully no one will interpret this as a tacit endorsement of prayer in schools. That might offend future members of the ACLU!
Of course, the motivation for this is obvious. It’s all about banning “hate” from campus. The bill says so specifically: “Freedom of speech, in a space that aims to be as inclusive as possible, can be interpreted as hate speech.”
I actually agree with this part. Flags can be interpreted as hate speech. Every time I see a rainbow flag, I think about gaystapo efforts to force people to take mandatory LGBT sensitivity training. I really hate that kind of stuff. It’s a form of homogenized fascism!
So how do we implement the goal of inclusion? Simple. We exclude stuff: “Let it further be resolved that no flag, of any nation, may be hanged on the walls of the Associate Student main lobby space.”
Did you see what they did there? In the final language of the bill, they limit the ban to flags of “nations.” Unless San Francisco secedes from the union, this means the rainbow flag will live to see another day! It also means someone can hang a Chick fil-a flag right next to it in the name of diversity of viewpoint. That is unless they are too chicken to do so. Or, perhaps, until someone has a beef with it!
Finally, a word on discretion: “Let it be further be [sic] 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.”
Ah, I see what they did there. They interjected the word “considerable.” This means that there is no objective standard of enforcement. If one person objects to the American flag, it can be removed as being “considerable.” If two people object to the Iranian flag, that might be deemed as “not considerable.” After all, no one is quantifying “considerable.” I’m predicting they will count objections to hanging flags in California the same way they counted hanging chads in Florida.
The flag banning legislation wasn’t just the passing fancy of Matthew “Not Che” Guevara. It actually passed with six yea votes, four nay votes, and two abstentions. Like a flag, this can be interpreted in different ways. Here is my interpretation:
Based upon their student representatives, about one half the kids at UC-Irvine are totally insane, about one third are reasonable, and about one sixth just don’t give a damn. Run that up your flagpole and salute it.