I came upon a troubling story out of California, the University of California at Irvine to be specific. The story concerned a proposal by six members of the University’s Legislative Council (Student Government) to prohibit the display of the American Flag in the lobby of the Student Government building.
Even more troubling was a letter, signed by a number of professors and other academics, in support of the resolution. (http://redalertpolitics.com/2015/03/11/uc-irvine-professors-sign-online-letter-support-campus-flag-ban/).
The line that caught my eye was this one.
“The resolution recognized that nationalism, including U.S. nationalism, often contributes to racism and xenophobia, and that the paraphernalia of nationalism is in fact often used to intimidate.”
These professors claim that nationalism, including US nationalism, contributes to racism and xenophobia.
They are correct and, sadly, they still miss the point.
What they miss is the Constitution of this country guarantees the freedom to express these opinions. A Constitution supported and defended at a high cost; one symbolized by that same flag.
The problem is not the flag or other symbols; the problem stems from the meaning and values we assign to them. That some attribute any semblance of xenophobia or racism to the American flag means they have never read, or understood, the Constitution and the ideals the flag represents.
When I see the flag, when I stand during the National Anthem, when I watch a flag draped coffin coming home, I am thankful I live in a country where some of us are willing to die to support and protect those that may hold a different opinion.
In this country, freedom of expression is the key to everything. Those six members of the legislative council, as well as the professors signing the letter in support, are entitled to their opinions and every opportunity to express them.
Instead of proposing a ban on displaying the flag, perhaps they should focus on the underlying issues that do need to be addressed. Xenophobia, racism, and discrimination are alive and well in this country. Focus on addressing the causes of those attitudes. Do not attack a symbol that, for most Americans and those that want to become part of this great society, represents the best of this country, our guarantee of freedom of expression.
That symbolism, represented by the flag, is worth keeping on display as a reminder to us all that this freedom comes at a cost.