by Emily Stetson
[CDM Communications Director]
Look, I get why everyone seems so worked up about Hampshire College’s decision to the issue hits close to remove their flag from their campus flagpole. It hits home in more ways than one; the flag has symbolic meaning to so many of us, and so much national attention has been directed towards an institution in such a close proximity to myself, and my peers. It’s hard not to get caught up in the sensationalism of it all.
On the most basic level, I think many have framed the decision to take down the flag in a purposely inflammatory way. Hampshire College President Jonathan Lash has stated that the intent behind taking down the flag was not, at least not knowingly, politically charged. From my own conversation with Hampshire students, my impression was that the flag was taken down as a means to prevent additional cases of flag burnings (and perhaps injuries from climbing the flagpole in individual attempts to desecrate the flag) on campus during the duration of this volatile post-election environment.
[Read President Lash’s statements here]
We could argue about ulterior intents, but at the end of the day, unless you are President Lash or actively involved on the Hampshire College campus, you cannot accurately gauge what factors played into this decision. And neither can I.
But like I said, this is just picking at the media’s framing of the incident. Where I really think we’ve lost the plot though, is within actually defining what the flag means to us as Americans. At this point, I can only speak for myself, though I hope that at least someone shares the sentiment.
I love my country, but it is irrefutable that it is flawed. And in contrast to some of my peers lately, I argue that acknowledging America’s imperfections is not anti-American; in fact, I would argue the most patriotic thing you can do is hold your country accountable to those principles expressed in our Constitution and Creed; justice, the general welfare, freedom, equality, and humanity, just to name a few. Our country hasn’t always honored these principles for all who have found a home here, and not everyone can look upon our nation’s symbols as ones that represent their interests and protect their livelihoods. These experiences considered, I believe our flag to be a solemn reminder of where we have been as a nation, the progress that we have made thus far, and the endless strides towards achieving these ideals that we still have ahead of us.
So many in our country are in mourning right now. Many are anxious or fearful for our families, friends, communities, and futures. I know I’m worried about these values, which we have expressed to be so integral to our identities, becoming weakened in the face of hateful rhetoric and escalating violence.
I guess what I’m trying to say in this rant is that we don’t fight for a flag. We defend what it stands for. And the intrinsic meaning of our flag is only as strong as those values that we have projected onto it. If we lose sight of those values, these protests at Hampshire are in vain.