In a surprising and controversial move, the Associated Students of the University of California Irvine have voted in favor of taking down the American flag and the flags of all other countries displayed in our main lobby. The resolution was passed Thursday on a six to four vote, with two members of the legislative council abstaining. The bill still has to go through the executive branch of the student government, where it is expected to be vetoed. [UPDATE: the executive branch of the ASUCI convened today March 7th and have chosen to officially veto the “Flags and decoration adjustment for inclusivity” resolution that was passed March 5th. However, the damage that this resolution has done to UC Irvine is still there.]
Authored by student Matthew Guevara, the resolution gives 27 different reasons as to why the members of the student council decided in favor of passing it. The reasons include that flags have a “wide variety of interpretations”, and that they often serve “as symbols of patriotism or weapons for nationalism”. The bill goes on to say “flags construct paradigms of conformity and sets homogenized standards for others to obtain which in this country typically are idolized as freedom, equality, and democracy,” and that “freedom of speech, in a space that aims to be as inclusive as possible can be interpreted as hate speech”. So in an effort to make the main lobby “as inclusive as possible,” six members of our student government have voted to place a ban on the flags of all nations, including our very own stars and stripes.
Immediately after the resolution was passed, conservatives had a field day. The condemnation of our university and students being un-American and un-patriotic was swift and scathing. Fox News, the bastion of all things American, depicted my alma mater in the worst way possible. The title of the opinion piece I read on Fox’s website was titled “Student at UC Irvine vote to ban American flag“, which is completely misleading and inflammatory. Not only does the vote of six students not represent the entire student body of nearly 30,000, but they did not vote to ban every single American flag on campus; the resolution only bans the display of the flag in the main lobby of the ASUCI offices.
The language used by the author Todd Starnes was extremely vitriolic and hateful towards both my university and my fellow colleagues. Starnes broke down the six to four vote on the resolution in a very handy dandy way for everyone to understand: “six unAmerican [sic] students, four patriots and two individuals who could have a career in House Republican leadership”. According to Starnes, if you exercise your American right to participate in the democratic process, you are un-American.
In his concluding paragraph, Starnes offers some “gentle” words of advice for the six members that voted in favor of the bill:
If you have a problem with the flag and what that flag stands for and the brave men and women who died for that flag – then you are more than welcome to pack your bags and haul your ungrateful buttocks across the border.
As an anteater here at the University of California, Irvine and an immigrant to this country, I find the ban of the American flag and all other national flags in the ASUCI lobby extremely distasteful. Hundreds of thousands of men and women throughout our country’s 239-year history have made the ultimate sacrifice for not only the flag, but the freedom, democracy, and American culture it represents. To have this flag taken down, even if it is just in a single room on campus, is a disgrace to these men and women who gave their lives for us and our freedom we hold so near and dear.
I don’t always agree with the United States’ foreign and domestic policies, let alone all our military interventions in other countries throughout the decades, but that does not make it okay for a group of six students to take down the flag on the grounds that it may offend someone. All countries have their baggage and the majority of them also had an imperialistic stint at some point in their history, so it is absurd to go to the extent of banning all flags from the lobby. I understand that the United States of America is not perfect by any metric, but this country has given millions of people, including myself and my family, an opportunity at a life not many other countries can possibly provide. And for that, I am ever thankful for this country I like to call home.