Friday, November 25, 2011

Shirts or Skins?

Shirts or Skins?

America, The Land of Free and Home of the Brave right? Well, maybe not. This past May 5, 2011, the Morgan Hill United School District near San Francisco decided to promote the Hispanic heritage (May 5th is the Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo). However, some students decided to wear shirts celebrating America. Now, a reasonable person would see no problem with this. However, the principal of Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill ordered those students to either go home and changes shirts or turn their shirts depicting the American flag inside out. As you would expect, a ruckus ensued and the matter went to court.

The previous year there had been some taunts over articles of clothing by both Hispanic and non-Hispanic students. A Mexican flag was hoisted over an American flag. It was shortly taken down by "Anglo" students amid chants of "USA", but it seems that the point was made.

This year, it was decided to honor Hispanic heritage by encouaging Hispanic student to take an extra bit of pride by wearing articles of clothing while the school system modified its curriculum south of the border and even the school cafeterias got into the act with a Hispanic cuisine (if you can call school lunches "cuisine"). The school ordered the offending "Anglo" students to change out of concern that their shirts would result in possible violence while the parent's of those students argued 1st Amendment rights.

Federal District Judge James Ware agreed with the school system that the non-Hispanic students didn't have a right to wear articles of clothing reflecting America, nor by extension, reframe from participating in programs prompting Hispanic culture. The decision is being appealed.

Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday celebrating a victory of outnumbered Mexican forces over a larger and better equipped Imperial French forces at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. The chief signifcance of the battle was a major moral boost to the beliggered Mexians trying to purge themselves of the French and preventing the French from extending their support of the Confedercy during the early days of the Civil War (The French, under Emperor Napoleon III was attempting to create a Latin Empire and at the same time supported a divided America. If successful, the French would be able to lay claim to much of the southwest territories. As an aside, the English and the Vatican also supported the cause of the South).

There can be no arguing that Cinco de Mayo is, albeit indirectly, tired to US history. It was certainally a victory for national freedom. However, there can equally be no argument that events in 1848 Germany or the Louisana Purchase from France or Alaska from Russia were just as important events to this country. Indeed, more so. The same came be said for over events such as the British attmept to starve the Irish off their land and the resulting Irish Famine immigration. The point is that we are a multi-culturial nation and we each have a reason to be proud of our ethnic hertitage. But, we've come to this land to "form a more perfect union" as a united people with a common language, traditions, and values. To acknowledge a certain ethnic hertitage is fine in my opinion so far as it does not do so at the exclusion of other ethnic groups. To punish students for expressing their common hertiage as Americans is wrong by any measure. Might there be taunts or even violence? Yes, it's possible. However, what's at stake here is two fold. First, that no ethnic group is above another. All must submit itself to an identity as Americans. Second is the fundimental right of self expression as guarenteed under the Bill of Rights. That one group would be offended demonstrates that more time needs to be spent on American history.

To learn more, check out these two articles:

Court Backs High Schools in Flap Over American Flag T-Shirts

Court backs Morgan Hill school in flag dispute

Just How Much Religious Tolerance Are We Talking About?

Finally, I just had to tell you about this one. Moslems attending Catholic University in Washington DC are miffed that there are crosses on the campus. So miffed in fact, that a lawsuit was filed. Moslem students are citing a violation of their human rights, and alleging that the university will not allow them to form a student association, provide rooms without Christian symbols or provide Halal meals. They allege that they are forced to prayed amid Christian crosses, icons, and pictures.

The university said it had no objection to the forming of a Moslem student association, acknowledging that there is a Jewish student association on campus, and it has been as accommodating as possible, but does not offer specially prepared meals.

The absurdity of this is almost comical if it wasn't so illustrative of what is happening in this country. If you don't want to be around Jewish or Hindu or Christian or Moslem religious symbolism, then don't go there. While they may not have a choice in their home countries, this nation offers individuals the choice of where they can attend school. Although I am not Catholic, I opted to attend Catholic universities for my undergraduate and graduate degrees because of the quality of education I knew I would receive. If I though I would have an issue with priests or nuns (or the required religious curriculum) I would have opted for another school, but I was open to learning about another faith and getting a top tier education to boot.

My suggestion to these students is either suck it up and get on with their education from an outstanding university or go elsewhere. I'm sure the same accommodations already afforded them wouldn't be afforded non-Moslem students in their home countries. Be grateful you're in America.

Here's the article:

Do Crosses at Catholic University Violate "Human Rights" of Muslims?

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