Scared of the flag
University of Central Florida is putting hundreds of American flags in in classrooms and meeting rooms, prompted by petitions from a student group with the sadly misspelled name of Rebuilding on a Conservative Kornerstone (ROCK). Student government funds are paying for the flags.
“It’s the least we can do,” said Heather Smith, the 21-year old president of ROCK. “We’re just trying to bring a symbol of freedom into the classroom.”
Other student groups and professors contend that installing flags in class at a time of war sends a subtle message to students, especially ones from other countries: Tone down criticism of the United States and President Bush.
“On the one hand, it’s meaningless,” said Kevin Martin, executive director of Peace Action, a Washington-area group that works with college students. He pointed out that flags are common in most K-12 schools.
“On the other hand, it’s absolutely dangerous,” Martin said. In the context of war, “it’s being used to bludgeon people, to stifle debate.”
Now, if they were burning flags, that would stimulate debate. But the sight of a U.S. flag in a U.S. classroom is just too much for “peace activists” to bear, delicate souls that they are. They might feel bad.
The University of Florida, pushed by a student group called Freedom Foundation, also is putting flags in every auditorium and classroom.
“I think an American flag is a part of any nice campus design,” said Adam Guillette, chairman of Freedom Foundation in Gainesville.
Oh, it’s just a design element. But what if red, white and blue clash with the color scheme?
I predict the flags will neither inspire patriotism nor terrify critics into silence. If the flags are either meaningless on one hand or “absolutely dangerous” on the other, I vote for the meaningless hand. What makes peace activists nervous, I think, is that ROCK and Freedom Foundation gathered pro-flag signatures so easily. It’s not the star-spangled banner they fear; they’re worried that mindless patriots will beat up mindless anti-Americans.