Fair warning: I’m going to go off the beaten path a little bit with this post. It’s going to be a little more serious and a little more … hmm, I’m struggling for the right word here. Political? It’s not really political. Politically incorrect maybe. If it offends you, I apologize. Well, no, actually, I don’t. If it offends you, I think you’re too easily offended, and I find it a little ironic because it’s a bit about the ridiculous lengths people are going to these days to avoid offending people.
Two incidents were in the news recently that propelled me into writing this. I thought about writing something after the first one, but decided against it because it was a group of college students doing what college students do – being a little radical, being a little esoteric, being a little (or a lot) liberal. But when I read about the second incident…well, here I am. I couldn’t keep silent any longer.
First, the first. You probably heard about it. Six students at the University of California, Irvine who were on the student legislative council voted to ban the display of the American flag, or any national flag, in the common are of the student government offices. The resolution stated that national flags – citing the American flag in particular – have been “flown in instances of colonialism and imperialism” and “serve as symbols of patriotism or weapons for nationalism.” It further stated that “[f]reedom of speech, in a space that aims to be as inclusive as possible[,] can be interpreted as hate speech.”
There was an immediate backlash. Thousands of students at UCI protested the action, clearly indicating that the six students who enacted the bill did not represent the wishes of the majority of the students at the school. The executive cabinet of the student government vetoed the bill within days.
Then, a few days ago, a story splashed across the internet that Lexington High School students were told by school administrators that the theme they chose for their junior/senior dance – American Pride – was objectionable and should be changed to “National Pride” so as to be more inclusive. This is Lexington, Massachusetts, by the way. You know, where the Revolutionary War started? The shot heard around the world? Their mascot is the Minute Man.
Again, there was a huge backlash, and administrators backed down. The theme remains American Pride, and the dance will go on. In fact, the administrators are saying it was all a big misunderstanding; they never said the theme had to change. They just wanted a “dialogue” with the students about it. They just “suggested” the change in order to make sure nobody felt like they couldn’t attend the dance if the theme was American Pride. The students, administrators say, just misinterpreted their concerns. That’s all. Mountain out of a molehill thing.
But it’s not a molehill. Here’s my take on it (and here’s where you might get offended, so if you’re all into political correctness or anti-Americanism or let’s-never-say-anything-that-ever-might-possibly-bother-someone-in-the-whole-wide-world, you’d better stop reading now).
This is America. Yes, it’s a melting pot. Yes, we are made up of people from all over the world. We are diverse. Many languages are spoken here. But it’s still America, and there’s a reason people come here. There’s a reason people want to go to the universities here. There’s a reason people immigrate to America.
Because it’s America. And America is something to be proud of. Perfect? No. But there is no perfect place in the world. There used to be, but then there was the whole, “Here, Eve, take a bite of this apple,” thing and that kind of screwed that up.
This is America. If you live here, no matter what your heritage, you’re part of America. You can be proud of it, or not. You can love it, or not. That’s your choice.
But if you are offended by the American flag, then you should find a country to live in that doesn’t offend you. Don’t try to make us remove our flag so that you don’t have to look at it. Don’t try to squelch our displays of patriotism because you’re not feeling it. If you’re not proud to be an American, then don’t be one. Find a country you can be proud to be part of, and move there. You’d be so much happier, wouldn’t you, not living in a place that you’re ashamed of?
Do I mean that if you live in America you have to reject every aspect of your foreign heritage? No, I do not. Can you be part of America and still be proud to be French, or English, or Iranian, or Chinese, or Russian, or Nigerian, or Haitian, or Peruvian? Of course you can.
But if you choose to live in America, whether you were born here or immigrated here, then be part of America. Be proud of the good things – because there are good things, great things – about America. And the other things? The bad things – because there are bad things – that none of us are proud of? Well, let’s work on fixing those things together instead of wasting all this energy on arguing about whether red, white, and blue is going to hurt somebody’s feelings.