When I first saw the headline my first thought was "surprise surprise, proud to be an American is not acceptable." Then I started reading the article and what I read absolutely stunned me. The article came from the Los Angelas Times (not known for conservative viewpoints at all) and seemed to lay out the facts in a straight forward manner.
The problem arose on May 5, 2010. The Latino community celebrates this day as Cinco de Mayo. As part of the teaching of diversity in our world, Cinco de Mayo has become a day that I would wager almost every public school "celebrates". On the surface this seems like a fairly good idea, at least an idea that I have tried not to slap down except when it gets out of control. I approve of teaching diversity of ALL cultures. I think if we are going to teach diversity, it should not be limited to only black culture or latino culture. I think Irish culture should be taught in March. St. Patricks Day is as big of an event for the Irish as Cinco de Mayo is for latinos. Canadian culture should be taught on the second Monday in October to teach Canadian Thanksgiving, or whatever Canadians consider to be their big holiday is. May Day for Russian Culture, whatever culture has a big day that celebrates the culture in and of itself. Cinco de Mayo certainly attains that status.
Here is what happened as far as I can understand. This little school in Northern California decided to hold it's annual Cinco de Mayo parade and celebration in 2009. The Latino students unfurled a Mexican flag and paraded proudly around the school with it high in the air celebrating what they consider their culture. In a display that exhibited the need for the teaching of diversity, some non-latino students took offense at the waving of the Mexican flag in their faces and began to shout who knows what at the parading students. This wasn't right and this would have been a prime time to actually TEACH diversity to some of these kids who took offense at others pride in their heritage. That may have happened, I am not sure.
Move ahead one year to May 5, 2010. Once again Cinco de Mayo was on the calender to be celebrated as a tool for showing and teaching the diversity that is the United States. Some students that weren't Latino decided it would only be fair to display their own pride in the face of a foreign flag being paraded about the school campus and so they donned white t-shirts with the American flag displayed across the chest. These shirts did not have any racists remarks, American slogans, as a matter of fact they carried no words at all. Just a simple American flag across the chest.
The latino students were outraged. They shouted at the kids with the flag shirts calling them racists among other unsavory things. The school administration anticipating feelings growing to a point of where it could be out of control and possibly bring on some physical confrontations called the kids with the American Flag shirts up to the office and told them to turn their shirts inside out or go home. Two students decided to stand on principle and go home instead of giving in to crowd that felt this apparently was not a day that being American should be celebrated.
Has anyone heard of the First Amendment? The Supreme Court has upheld all kinds of cases involving the displaying of the American flag as a First Amendment right. From hair scarfs displaying the Stars and Stripes to underwear. It is a right to wear shoes or to make a work of art that displays the American flag with either a positive or a negative message. When I read this story this morning I was stunned, although I suppose I shouldn't have been.
SCOTUS has allowed the Confederate flag to be displayed freely as a first amendment right although there is an exception. They would prefer that states do not use the Stars and Bars as part of their state flag in an official manner, which I can understand. Mississippi got around this ruling by designing a new state flag that included the display, in miniature of all the previous state flag of the state, which happened to include a couple of stars and bars renditions. The Confederate flag can be argued as being a part of southern heritage, but it is so offensive to a great deal of the American population that it was decided not to allow it as part of State Seals, flags and the sort. I get that. I actually agree with it. However, the average American citizen can display the Confederate flag in any way he wants as often as he wants.
The Nazi flag which displays a swastika can be paraded through the streets by groups of White supremacists through Skokie, Illinois, a highly populated Jewish town outside of Chicago. Any national flag of any country may be displayed as part of a private display by a citizen of the United States. Some of these flags do offend certain people and it is understandable that they do. However part of living and being a citizen in this great country is the fact that you have the right to do so.
When I was young and just a little dimmer than I am now, I came across a basketball jersey that had USSR emblazoned across the front of it. No surprise it was on sale and so I bought it and wore it to several pick up games that I played in with a church related activity. I could be told that it wasn't cool and that I should not be proud of it, but it was an Olympic year after Nixon had reach accords with the USSR and I more or less felt it was okay. No one could tell me NOT to wear it though. I eventually set it aside and haven't worn it for years. It sits in the bottom of one of my drawers, just another reminder of my rebellious youth. In other countries I may have been turned in to the authorities and prosecuted, but not in this country. This country is special.
The purpose in me writing this is simply to say it is an affront to American history, American culture and The Constitution to strip those kids of their first amendment rights by not allowing them to wear a shirt that simply displayed the flag of their own country because it may offend some kids who are waving a foreign flag around the campus. If they do not want violence on that school campus, then do away with the parade celebrating the holiday. Instead focus on teaching the diversity within the classroom forum. The Latino kids should be able to wear shirts with the Mexican flag on it just as other kids should be able to wear a shirt with the American flag on it. In my opinion, if you are going to stomp on someones first amendment rights, it should not be the kids who display the American flag.
Right now, SCOTUS is reviewing the case to decide whether to hear oral arguments later in the term or to let the 9th circuits ruling stand and not hear arguments. I sincerely hope the Supreme Court does decide to hear the case. It needs to be heard. It needs to send out a message that the first amendment covers everyone, those who are proud of their foreign history and heritage and those that are simply proud to be an American.