Monday, May 10, 2010
Of Flags and Cinco de Mayo
Of Flags and Cinco de Mayo
Joseph C. Phillips
Monday, May 10, 2010
Last week, Americans of all nationalities celebrated Cinco de Mayo; some, like me, acknowledged the day by partaking of margaritas and carne asada.
Others, like the Mexican students at Live Oak high school in Northern California, observe the day by wearing the Mexican colors of red, white, and green. In a gesture meant to display American pride, five Live Oak students--Daniel Galli, Austin Carvalho, Matt Dariano, Dominic Maciel, and Clayton Howard--decided to wear American flag t-shirts and bandannas. After receiving complaints from some Mexican students, Assistant Principal Miguel Rodriguez asked the boys to turn their shirts inside out. The boys refused, were threatened with suspension, and were asked to leave the campus.
I am old enough to recall a time when wearing the American flag on a piece of clothing was seen as disrespectful to Americans. Even images of the flag worn as fashion were viewed as a vulgar desecration of a cherished symbol. But times have changed.
Over the years, attitudes have not only relaxed, but they have completed a 180 degree turn. The flag has become an oft-used element in fashion design, and wearing the flag is now considered a display of patriotism. An image burned into my memory is one of the actress Halle Berry wearing a form-fitting gown comprised of small American flags. Disrespectful or not, if that image doesn’t make you stand up and salute, nothing will.
Yes, times have certainly changed. I doubt that anyone ever imagined a time in this country when American children would be criticized for wearing the American flag not because it offended traditional American sensitivities, but because it was seen as disrespectful to Mexicans.
Principal Rodriguez said that the request was made in an effort to prevent fights from breaking out. What remains unclear is why wearing an American flag on one’s shirt would provoke violence--even amongst testosterone-filled teen boys. Daniel Galli and his buddies were minding their own business. If it is the opinion of the principal that just the sight of an American flag on Cinco de Mayo will produce conniption fits among Mexican children, it seems clear to me that he does not have a very high opinion of the Latino students that attend the school.
If it is an educator’s job to promote critical thinking among his students then the administrators at Live Oak failed miserably. Here was a “teaching moment;” here was a real opportunity for Rodriguez and Principal Nick Boden to provide a lesson in patience, priorities, and the true meaning of tolerance. But multi-culturalism has turned people into thin skinned grievance junkies—babies that cry at every cross-look or unkind word and must be coddled lest they toss themselves on the floor and begin kicking and screaming. So, rather than suggest to the aggrieved students that they ignore the red, white, and blue t-shirts, enjoy their day, and get back to class, Rodriguez and Boden indulged the multi-cultural temper tantrum, which ironically, played into the worst stereotypes of Mexican people. "You had better take those shirts off. You know these Mexicans; they will pull their knives at the drop of a hat!"
The following day some 200 Mexican students walked out of class in protest. As they marched down the street waving the Mexican flag they demanded the boys’ suspension. And once again, rather than demand maturity from the Mexican students, the protest was greeted by the district superintendent with promises to hold a rap-session, where the students would be encouraged to express their feelings. I would like to suggest that rather than encouraging cross-cultural understanding, the school district should instead encourage a cross-cultural Algebra tutoring session. Given that Live Oak is underperforming the state average on both the California Standards test and the California High School Exit Exam, such an endeavor seems far more necessary and certainly more practical.
Responding to the ongoing drama at Live Oak, a young Latina declared that wearing the American flag on Cinco de Mayo was akin to Mexicans wearing the Mexican flag on the Fourth of July. The essential point that this young woman misses is that should she be strolling the streets of Mexico City on July Fourth her donning of the Mexican flag would indeed not raise many eyebrows. We are, as it happens, not in the country of Mexico; rather we reside in the United States of America.
The sight of the American flag in America—even on Cinco de Mayo—should not be a source of offense to Americans of Mexican descent, but pride, providing of course that one sees him or herself as an American first. And here is the point that this young woman, the school administrators and a handful of sympathizers seem forever not to grasp. Americans do not want to be an extension of Mexico! Indeed many of us have had a peek south of the border and do not like what we see. The political culture and the values that support it hold little interest for those proud of our flag and “the republic for which it stands.”
Among many Americans, there is a growing sense that immigrants to this country have no interest in becoming Americans. Illegal immigrants are largely seen as people who disrespect our laws, our language, and our traditions. More significantly, they are viewed as taking advantage of everything this nation has to offer and yet refusing to assimilate into our American culture. The political class says that these fears are unfounded, and the elite label such thoughts as bigoted. And yet we are treated to stories like this one, wherein American children are sent home from school for wearing an image of the American flag. Should we believe the political elites? Or our lying eyes?
Respect and American Flag Tee-Shirts
Monday, May 10, 2010
Several students at a high school in California wore tee-shirts with American flags on them during Cinco de Mayo day and a vice-principal ordered them to turn the shirts inside out, remove them or make the walk of shame to the principal’s office.
As the boys’ story was starting to make national news, an extraordinary thing occurred. A couple hundred kids took to the streets and marched through the Bay Area city in protest.
When I first saw the headline about the protest, I thought it was kind of admirable that fellow high school students would take to the streets in support of the American flag-wearing kids. Since the school dress code didn’t ban the wearing of such a shirt, clearly the vice-principal (who is Hispanic) overreacted in a ridiculous way.
But then I read a little further down the page. These protesters weren’t young people marching in support of the First Amendment or objecting to the outrageous behavior of an over-zealous vice-principal. They were mostly Hispanic kids who were protesting the young men wearing the American flag tee-shirts!
It has come to this.
Many activists and antagonists who are on the wrong side of an issue employ the tactic of, “the best defense is a good offense.” I often debate liberals on Fox News Channel who tend to start yelling and attacking when they run out of facts or common sense. I suppose these folks figure if they bow up and get in our faces, we’ll just back down and see the world their way.
It must be the same with the contentious national conversation we’re having about illegal immigration. When Arizona boldly and bravely decided to tackle the illegal immigration crisis by enacting legislation that gives cops the right to enforce the already-existing immigration laws, liberals scream and howl and act as if the U.S. Constitution was being shredded before their very eyes. People in leadership positions - like Cardinal Roger Mahoney - have said ugly and terrible things about the new Arizona law. Even loudmouth NBA stars are getting in on the act. Canadian point guard Steve Nash, a talented basketball player with an obnoxious liberal streak off the court, is now lecturing us about what it means to be a good American. Again, please note Mr. Nash’s country of origin.
The world is upside down these days. Right is portrayed as wrong, laws are apparently meant to be ignored or ridiculed, and a few teenage boys get in hot water for daring to wear an American flag on their shirts on Cinco de Mayo.
And then, around 200 kids have to audacity to take to the streets demanding respect.
Evidently, they’ve forgotten the images of thousands of pro-illegals marching through American streets waving Mexican flags.
Perhaps they haven’t seen the news reports about the damage done to Santa Cruz businesses by stampeding, crazed pro-illegal protesters, or the people being hauled off to jail for breaking the law during demonstrations, or the pictures of riot police in communities around the country attempting to keep the peace.
You want respect?
Start with recognizing that there are millions of Americans who are fed up with rampant illegal immigration.
You want respect?
Appreciate how Arizona lawmakers are listening to their constituents and doing what they can to pick up the pieces of a broken, failed, federal system that sees millions pour across our borders and fails to allow anything to be done about them once they are here.
You want respect?
Recognize once and for all that illegal immigration is an explosive, powerful issue that is uniting Americans who will go to the polls and cast out wimpy politicians who don’t have the guts to defend the sovereignty of the United States of America.
Respect? The people supporting illegals don’t know the meaning of the word.
I’m so glad to hear that the families of the boys who wore the American flag tee-shirts to school have no intention of apologizing. They have nothing to apologize for.
The apology needs to start coming from the lawless, reckless, irresponsible voices in our country who are blindly defending illegal immigration and attacking any and all who dare to stand up for the rule of law.
But don’t hold your breath.
These angry activists have no intention of backing down. And their protests will become louder and angrier as their side faces the reality of the situation, as they get closer to realizing the truth -- that it is wrong to defend the indefensible.
Our only hope is with the elected officials and the judges who decide these things. And if politicians don’t get it right, we’ll find the ones who will.
That’s the American way.
Posted by Brett at 8:52 PM