UCI’s flag flying flap – much ado about nothing

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Cartoon by Michelle Bau

A group of six undergraduate student members of the Associated Students council voted two weeks ago to ban flying the American flag in the common area of the student government office at the University of California, Irvine.

This vote was vetoed within days by a higher student government panel and the university, but the action of these few students caused an unfortunately predictable overreaction from those both on the far left and the far right.

The actions of these few students were not earth-shattering or even unexpected in today’s climate of political correctness. The resolution passed by the students is so filled with over-wrought politically correct jargon (such as claims that the flag “construct cultural mythologies and narratives” and “construct paradigms of conformity and set homogenized standards”) as to be more humorous than threatening.

Yet, politicians on the right immediately seized on this tempest in a teapot with righteous indignation and dramatic action. Within days, Republicans in the state legislature proposed to amend the state constitution to prohibit flag banning at California’s public universities.

Those on the left also immediately over-reacted, with UCI students and faculty members protesting and circulating a petition claiming that the flag represents “U.S. nationalism . . . racism and xenophobia” and that the flag is “paraphernalia of nationalism” that is “often used to intimidate.”

The national media, which apparently profits from division and discord, did its part by making this event a national spectacle.

The reality is that what happened at UCI is a non-event. Our country is founded on the First Amendment’s right to free speech, and that applies equally to those on the left and the right.

Therefore, these six students had the right to vote to ban the flag in their office. The right to free speech as it relates to the flag even goes much further than choosing not to fly it.

“Texas v. Johnson gives the right to burn the American flag; that is constitutionally protected free speech,” AP U.S. History teacher Frank Harrington said.

Likewise, those on the other side have the right to express their views, which they have done. The system worked, everyone’s free speech rights were honored, and life goes on.  As a country, there are certainly large issues we and the national media can focus on.