Saturday, March 16, 2024

Is America Ashamed of its Flag? The Politicization of the Stars and Stripes

The U.S. Army's prestigious Academy at West Point has made the decision to remove the "Duty, Honor, Country" motto from its mission statement. In its place will be "Army Values", whatever the hell that is supposed to mean. The words "Duty, Honor, Country" has been part of West Point's code of conduct and its celebrated oath since 1925.and is just as venerated as our flag.

On March 11th, 2014 in St. Leon Indiana, a student named Cameron Blasek, was told to remove his American flag from the back of his pickup truck. Blasek, a senior at East Central High School, was hauled in front of the school principal and told that his flag was unacceptable and could not be displayed while on school property. Failure to do so would be grounds to be written up for subordination (which I presume is a big deal, at least to the principal)

The student refused and even cited chapter and verse from the school handbook as to what's permissible and what's not. Meanwhile, word got out and spread like wildfire throughout the entire school (as gossip is known to do in high school). The following day, the principal announced that they were reversing their decision and dropping the matter, but not before other students showed up flying their own American flags!  No explanation from the principal was ever given as to why he thought flying an American flag was not acceptable. Kudos everyone for standing up to bullying, even if it was the school principal!

In August 2023, "Jaiden", a 12 year old attending The Vanguard School in Colorado Springs Colorado, showed up wearing a Gadsden Flag patch sewn onto his backpack. Many of the teachers seemed to disapproved of this early American flag and eventually one teacher ordered him to remove it as being "disruptive to the classroom environment".

One of the teachers mistakenly claimed that the flag had "origins with slavery" (let's hope she doesn't teach history). In truth, it was often referred to as the 'Tea party flag". However, others reported that the only "disruption" was how excited the other students were at seeing the flag (probably because it had a snake on it). 

The young man  refused to remove the flag and as a result, his parents were brought in and despite giving the teacher in question a short history lesson about the flag, the matter was reported to the Vanguard School Board of Education. They called an emergency meeting to discuss whether displaying a symbol of the American Revolution on a personal backpack was permissible or not.

The incident was picked up by the local media and the next thing you know Colorado Governor Jared Polis (D) weighed in on the issue and reiterated what Jaiden's parents had said concerning the history of  the flag and the fact it had nothing to do with slavery. Governor Polis called this a "great teaching moment" (presumably for the history deficient teacher and members of the school board). Ironically, the flag's iconic motto, "Don't Tread on Me" was intended to warn the British not to ignore our liberties.  

The Gadsden flag with its familiar gold background and rattlesnake, is one of the first American flags of the American Revolution. Founding Father, Ben Franklin, even recommended it for our first official national flag. The naval version of the flag, with its red and white stripes in lieu of the gold background, is still flown on the bow of the U.S. Naval warships.

The final decision was that Jaiden was allowed to keep his Gadsden flag on his backpack. As an aside, it didn't take long after the decision was made for other students showing up with Gadsden sticker and put them all over their lockers. Way to go everyone, especially you Jaiden!

in 2016, the principal of Travelers Rest High School in South Carolina told students that they were prohibited from waving U.S. flags at their upcoming football game. In addition, the flag would not be flown outside of the school stadium. The reason? The opposing team was made up of mostly Hispanic students and the principal was afraid that a display of national pride would hurt the feelings of the other team.

The backlash from the school alumni, students, and the community immediate and loud. Nevertheless, the principal, Lou Lavely responded by saying that the presence of the flag could be seen as "taunting" and "unsportsmanlike" as well possibly provoking a hostile environment. However, school officials disagreed with Lavely and reversed his decision.

At the end of August 2021, a video showed up of a teacher for the Newport-Mesa Unified School District getting her class started for the day. As with most schools across America, this usually includes everyone standing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, except on this occasion the teacher had a different idea.

The teacher, Kristen Pitsen, thought it would be a great idea to say the pledge to the rainbow colored LGBQT "Progress Pride" flag instead. When asked where the American flag was by students, Ms. Pitsen said it was "lost" but she'd try to find it. The video was, oddly enough, posted on Ms. Pitsen's own TikTok account. The video has subsequently been removed as has Ms. Pitsen.

The video was widely reported, including to the School Board and despite this being California, Ms. Pitsen was removed from the classroom pending further investigation. Ms. Pitsen taught English at the Back Bay HIgh School. Other reports indicate Ms Pitsen had previously posted videos of collection of LGBQT flags in her classroom and Ms. Pitsen saying in one video, "I pledge allegiance to queers".

As an aside, Ms. Pitsen apparently doesn't take saying the Pledge of Allegiance very seriously. She allegedly said in a  now deleted video, "I always tell my class to stand if you feel like it, don't stand if you feel like it, say the words if you want, don't say the words if they don't want to". In this case, the students stood but didn't say the pledge.

The spokesperson for the Newport-Mesa Unified School District said that all the LGBQT flags have been removed. They also posted on their webpage "showing respect for our nation's flag is an important value our district instills in our students and it's an expectation of our employees. We sake this matter seriously and are investigating and addressing it".  So do we.

In a related incident which occurred just a month later in September 2021, a Oregon teacher decided to take down the American flag too. The reason? "It stands for violence and menace and intolerance",  at least according to Ms. Gail Grobey. She also added that the flag is "the most political symbol there is".

Ms. Grobey is another English teacher Newberg High School in Newberg Oregon and former president of the Newberg Education Association. Ms Grobey went on to say that she's attempting to activate her union into opposing a recent ban on all "overtly political" symbols on school ground. This ordinance specifically includes Black Lives Matter and LGBQT flags and symbols.

She thinks that if these flags are banned, then so to should the American flag.  Accordingly, she has removed the American flag from her classroom and added that "Big Brother wants to control what we support or what we talk about". The Black Lives Matter is a political and social movement which many people believes symbolized hatred and racism.

The LGBQT and its symbols represent a different sexual orientation which certain segments of the population find offensive, mainly due to religious reasons. However, in a secular nation like ours, one's religious beliefs are purely theirs to act on but they don't apply to everyone else.

Thus you can oppose something because they offend your sense of morality, but you don't get to force everyone else to go along. They can, however, vote against proposed LGBQT bills or choose not to associate with members of the gay community, they can't make everyone else do the same. Nevertheless, LGBQT is still a political and social movement.

In the case of the U.S. flag, this is our sovereign flag. It was chosen to represent the American People, not the white European Americans. Not the Hispanic Americans. Not to Asian Americans. Not Black Americans. Not Christian, Jewish, Muslim, atheist, pagan, or agnostic Americans. 

It represents all Americans. And yes, some terrible things have been done under that flag (Native Americans come to mind as well as our attempts to overthrow popularly elected governments), but far more awe inspiring and magnificent things have too including the 1794 Slave Act which prohibited slaves from being brought to America.

These slaves, which I should remind some, were captured, beaten, and sold by other African tribes. Europeans didn't traipse through the jungle in search for victims. This was done by African tribes (who had been doing it long before Europeans ever showed up. They were sold to other Africans as well as the English, Spanish, Dutch, and Portuguese slavers along with Arabs. As an aside,  I've yet to hear the outrage and demand for "reparations" from these African tribes who preyed on their own people and who were most responsible for the slave trade in the first place.

What about the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote, the Emancipation Proclamation in 1864 which followed on the heels of the British Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 which effectively ended slavery in the West? Throughout Mankind's long history on this planet, never had this been done on this scale and economic impact. Meanwhile, slavery continued in Africa (and still does), the Middle East (and still does) and parts of Asia (and still does).

There was the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the establishment of the Agricultural Labor Relations Board in 1975 to help protect migrant workers, the Clean Air Act of 1970 and Clean Water Act of 1972, and many more. And, of course, we're still trying to work through other issues as a nation. Things often don't happen the we think they should, but that doesn't mean we stop trying. That's why we still show respect to the American flag despite its checkered history, otherwise where does it stop?

If there can be BLM flags in classrooms, public streets, or in government buildings, why not Hispanic flags (especially the nationalist Chicano "Aztlan flag?) After all, Hispanics are our largest minority and projected to the largest population segment within the next 30 years.  Besides, much of what's Western America belonged to Mexico well into the early 19th century. 

What about Asians or Pacific Islanders? They have a strong presence on the West Coast and deserve representation too. Don't forget too that Japanese-Americans suffered the indignity of being forced into prison camps and the loss of the basic rights for merely being Asian. 

Personally, I think if anyone deserves special recognition it's Native Americans. They dealt with attempted genocide, countless broken treaties, planned starvation, repeated evictions of their land, discrimination, and forced settlement on reservations no better than rural ghettos which suffer from many of the same issues as inner city ghettos---rampant crime, drug and alcohol abuse, poverty, poor schools, high unemployment.  A lack of electricity, running water, and indoor plumbing is still not uncommon on many reservations. 

Why shouldn't Christian flags be flown on government property? That's our dominate religion and there are many who believe America was intended to be a "Christian nation". But if we allow them, why not the Jewish "Star of David"? Their influence on our nation is undeniable.  But why not Muslim, Buddhists, Wiccan, or atheist flags?  Because only the American flag unites all elements of society. There is one flag to represent all Americans just as their is one national anthem for all Americans. 

Nevertheless, that doesn't prevent some elements of society from still attempting to discredit national pride and its most basic symbol of America, our flag. The only flag which deserves to be flown or displayed in government buildings, public schools or on public property is the Stars and Stripes.  There are plenty of other places to display flags belonging to social moments, including private residences and property.

In closing, let me leave you with a quote from our 26th president, Teddy Roosevelt (and my personal favorite), which he delivered in 1912. It's just as true now (or maybe more so) and it was 112 years ago:

“In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person's becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American...There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag... We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language... and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.”

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Student says school told him to removeAmerican Flag from his truck

Colorado school is forced to let student keep Gadsden flagon his bag after teacher ordered him to remove it....


Teacher removed after Having The Class Pledge of Allegianceto the Pride Flag

Oregon teacher removes American flag from classroom, says it stands for 'violence, menace and intolerance'

The American Flag Was Banned at a South Carolina High School

GOP Lawmakers: Flying a Pride flag, a BLM flag, 'has no place inside our government buildings'

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