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Author Topic: Students Kicked Off Campus for Wearing American Flag Tees
Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by DonaldD:
Grant, I assume you do not dispute that the nazi party, having marched down many streets with swastikas, did not make the swastika symbolic of certain radical fascist philosophies.

Is there something special about the qualities of the colour, fabric or pattern of the US flag that makes its symbolism absolutely immutable? absolutely non-subjective to all other people?

Absolutely immuntable? No. But as a society we should refuse to accept such an interpretation -- whether by Nazis or by politically correct bureaucrats or by america-hating thugs. We have a right as a society to simply refuse to acknowledge certain grotesque construals and interpretations of our national symbols. Just as a Vedic temple doesn't have to go destroy its 2000 year old Swasticas just because of Hitler's misuse of them. When in a Vedic temple, a swastica means what it's always meant there, and in America, the stars and stripes are the stars and stripes.
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DonaldD
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In the USA, the stars and stripes may be the stars and stripes, except when other people are using the flag to mean something else, of course.

We may decry that use, but it's not like you can pretend that use away.

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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Originally posted by Grant:
quote:
Originally posted by MattP:
quote:
The question remains: Is the American Flag a symbol of disrespect to the Mexican-American people?
Is it? In general, no. Can it be? Sure. Suppose someone posted a flyer around the school saying "Let's remind these Mexicans what country they're in. No one celebrates July 4 in Tijuana, why should we care about Cinqo de Mayo here? Wear an American Flag on May 5 to let these foreigners know that this is our country and if they don't like it they can go home."
But was the American Flag the problem? Or was the writing on the flyer the problem? You see, the flag did not offend, the writing did.
And because of the offensive nature of the flier, would you find it unreasonable for the school administration to request that the flier makers not use the flag on it?

If someone wrapped a brick in the US flag and came at you swinging it like a flail, would you assume that the use of the flag meant that they were just doing their patriotic duty or somesuch?

The entire point here has been that the flag itself wasn't offensive- it was the use of the flag as part of an intentionally racist in inflammatory statement that was. No one had a problem with these kids wearing the flag until they wore it with the specific intent to used it for a purpose opposed to its meaning.

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PSRT
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quote:
The entire point here has been that the flag itself wasn't offensive- it was the use of the flag as part of an intentionally racist in inflammatory statement that was. No one had a problem with these kids wearing the flag until they wore it with the specific intent to used it for a purpose opposed to its meaning.
Is this irony intentional or un?

[ May 12, 2010, 05:16 PM: Message edited by: PSRT ]

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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by DonaldD:
Grant, I assume you do not dispute that the nazi party, having marched down many streets with swastikas, did not make the swastika symbolic of certain radical fascist philosophies.

Is there something special about the qualities of the colour, fabric or pattern of the US flag that makes its symbolism absolutely immutable? (that, BTW, was sarcastic, not socratic [Smile] )

Seriously, what aside from the value that you associate with the flag makes its meaning absolutely non-subjective to all other people?

Hmmmmm. I'll keep it simple. The swastika was hijacked by the nazi party as a symbol. Not just the swastika itself, the the red flag, white circle, and from what I understand, the nazi swastika is actually reversed from the Buddhist swastika. Can we agree that the nazi swastika, on the nazi flag, is a symbol of nazi germany? It does not symbolize happy hour at Shanahans, or the fight against breast cancer, it symbolizes nazi germany. First we need to agree that the flag symbolizes nazi germany.

Then we need to come up with some agreements on what nazi germany represents. We could probably agree that it represents getting the trains to run on time, and it represents military conquest. Could we also agree that the nazi regime killed millions of jews? Could we thus infer that since the Nazi flag is a symbol of the Nazi regime, the flag symbolizes atrocity to jews. Is this possibly the reason why the nazi flag is outlawed in Germany today? I believe it is.

Now we should agree that the American flag represents the United States. Then we should attempt to agree on wether the United States has been a positive or negative force in the lives of Mexicans and Mexican Americans. I would say the United States has been a positive force, though I do not deny episodes of oppression, racism, prejudice, and conquest against the Mexican and Mexican-American peoples. I believe these episodes are truly against the spirit of the United States.

Now, you may disagree with me on that point. You may believe in fact that the United States is in fact a negative force, or that any episode of oppression, racism, prejudice, or conquest, is reason enough for a Mexican American to feel that the United States, and the flag that represents it, is offensive.

If these two groups of children have differing opinions of the symbolism of the American Flag, and the meaning of the United States, then which one is correct?

If you and I agree that smurfs are not satanic, and yet a third person believes that smurfs are symbols of the devil, then who is correct? By subjective standards, everyone is correct, because the smurf may be a symbol of evil to that particular person without it being symbols of evil to the two of us. Yet should we not be able to argue over the meaning of the smurf? Because Billy thinks Smurfs are satanic, should Suzie have to take her shirt off that depicts smurfs?

I do not deny that the US flag bothered certain children in that school. My question is weather is should have at all, regardless of the intent of the wearers.

I still do not believe that the wearing of the American flag on cinco-de-mayo is anti-mexican american.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
Does that make the American flag essentially the same as wearing a picture of Cortes? Because after all, doesn't the American flag and Cortes represent the same concept of oppression and hatred?
I will help walk you through this, because it seems to be something you're having difficulty with.

Context matters.
A picture of Cortez does not automatically represent oppression and hatred. Neither does a picture of David Duke; after all, Duke prominently displayed his own picture on his campaign website, and was not using it to represent oppression and hatred.

These kids wore American flags not because they were proud of America or thought flags were pretty, but because they wanted to convey the message that they were more proud of America than Mexico. This would have been a very difficult message to convey by wearing the American flag on any other day, because -- as some of the real geniuses on this thread have noted -- we live in America.

But they did not organize a mass wearing of the American flag on any other day. Their failure to prominently wear the American flag in numbers on other days of the year would of course be noted by other individuals at the school, and thus their decision to wear the flag on that particular day would inform the perceived context of the act.

It is, of course, entirely possible that the perceived context is completely independent of the intended context -- but based on what the kids have said, that's highly unlikely.

Since you've mentioned Cortez, let's consider three places you might find his picture (and the different meanings that might be conveyed.)

1) Among photos of other explorers
2) Among photos of other mass-murderers
3) Among photos of famous racists, with the caption "People who had the right idea"

Someone who is smart enough to recognize the context in which the photo is placed would not be remiss in assuming, for example, that the people who assembled #3 is trying to convey a certain message.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
Now we should agree that the American flag represents the United States. Then we should attempt to agree on wether the United States has been a positive or negative force in the lives of Mexicans and Mexican Americans.
Ah.
This is, I suspect, why you're confused.

The perceived offense has very little -- almost nothing, in fact -- to do with the merits of America as a country or its influence on Mexico.

I don't know how familiar you are with the politics of power structures (or with the concept of situational empathy), but the culture being judged in this case is not America but Mexico. Specifically, Mexican culture was being found lacking.

You seem to think that the use of the American flag as a symbol can only be a positive use -- by which I don't mean a symbol of sparkles and light, but rather that it's a statement which posits something: "I like America," or "I hate America," or "I think these colors are pretty."

The flag is, however, being used here as a negative symbol, an alternative to another expected symbol. It acts, in other words, to create negative space that is then filled up with the majority cultural assumption.

If this is something that you've really never considered, I am not surprised that it's confusing for you to have this effect described. However, it's actually a very common effect, and I imagine that it must make your daily life rather difficult if you only perceive all semiotic messages on a literal (and asserted) level.

I would be willing to go into more detail on how the semiotics of this insult break down, if you're actually interested. If not, suffice it to say that the American flag is not being used or perceived here as a stand-in for America, but rather America-instead-of-Mexico.

This is, in fact, the danger of tribalism: it's very easy to slip from "I love my country/culture/football team" to "I love my country/culture/football team instead of yours."

[ May 12, 2010, 05:36 PM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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JWatts
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
This is, in fact, the danger of tribalism: it's very easy to slip from "I love my country/culture/football team" to "I love my country/culture/football team instead of yours."

So, one would infer that the Mexican-American students wearing the Mexican flag in an American school were saying:

"I love my country/culture/football team instead of yours."

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simplybiological
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The ONLY issue here is whether or not the wearing of the flags had the potential to incite tension that could escalate to violence. Whether you, I, the school, or any other adult thinks this is reasonable is completely irrelevant.

If wearing the flag in this manner upset Mexican-American students and they felt disrespected, it has potential to create a dangerous situation whether this is a legitimate use of the symbol or not, and the administration was justified.

On the Day of Silence (when students show solidarity with LGBT students and protest bullying) I had a student who wanted to hand out cards with a Bible verse that stated homosexuality is wrong. I didn't let him, because it had the intent of provoking others and could have incited tension or violence. The Bible is clearly not inherently bad, but on this day that action would have been provokative. Same deal.

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TommySama
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quote:
Originally posted by DonaldD:
The american flag symbolizes whatever the person wearing it, hanging it or wielding it wants it to symbolize. Interestingly, it also symbolizes what other people who see it think that person wants it to symbolize. That is the nature of a symbol - it has no inherent meaning outside of what people associate to it.

To believe that a symbol has a constant, immutable meaning is a bit bizarre, frankly. And yes, take the swastika as just one example - if a bunch of Hindu or Buddhist students took to all wearing swatika motif clothing on Yom Kippur, I would think that suspicious, even absent other knowledge if those students, whereas the same students wearing such attire somewhat independently and irregularly throughout the year might not raise concerns.

Similarly, when the KKK marches down main street waving american flags, do those flags mean the same thing as the flag draped over the coffin at a military funeral?

I wonder what would have happened if some American Patriots (!!) had complained that the kids wearing the US flag were disrespecting it and in response the principle had asked them to remove it.

Or, what if some hipster hispanics had ironically worn the American flag on Cinco de Mayo? Whose rights are being violated now?

[ May 12, 2010, 06:40 PM: Message edited by: TommySama ]

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TomDavidson
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quote:
So, one would infer that the Mexican-American students wearing the Mexican flag in an American school were saying:

"I love my country/culture/football team instead of yours."

Not necessarily. I would be happy to explain why, but I'm almost sure you can figure it out. Again, it's about context -- this time, about the context of majority defaults.

In America, the default assumption is that one loves America. An American wearing an American flag often stands out precisely because it is not normally necessary for an American to display something to indicate his love of country; one immediately wonders why he feels it is necessary. (I mean that non-judgmentally, by the way, as someone who flies an American flag from the front of his house for all sorts of reasons.) An American who flies a German flag or wears the colors of a British soccer team is not assumed to be saying "I love Germany and do not love America;" rather, it is assumed that he loves Germany or British soccer in addition to his default love of America.

What riled these kids up in the first place is that they didn't think the Mexican immigrants attending their school were sufficiently American enough to be extended the default assumption that they love America; therefore, their celebration of Mexican culture was perceived -- perhaps rightly, perhaps wrongly -- as a celebration of Mexican culture instead of American culture.

It has been my experience that this is a common cultural misconception. Certain American subcultures are much quicker than others to retract the default assumption that people behaving in a certain way are "American enough" to be given the benefit of the doubt on certain cultural touchstones. An American's love of salsa is somehow different from an illegal immigrant's love of salsa.

So, in other words, it is perfectly normal and inoffensive for students of Mexican heritage to celebrate their Mexican heritage on the handful of days we recognize for that purpose. Presumably, they are celebrating American culture the entire rest of the year. Where this breaks down, of course, is that not all Mexican immigrants do love America -- and it goes without saying that not all Americans believe that all Americans, much less immigrants, love America. There are plenty of conservatives, for example, who are more than willing to believe that schools are full of people who secretly and not-so-secretly hate everything America stands for -- and in that context, preventing students from wearing the American flag is seen as just another anti-American action because the basic presumption of shared identity is not extended.

So, yes, it's entirely possible that a Mexican immigrant might wear a Mexican flag patch as a way to insult America; it's even more likely that he would wear a Mexican flag patch as a way to set himself slightly apart. But it's also likely that he would wear a Mexican flag because, hey, he doesn't otherwise have the opportunity to celebrate that part of his heritage every single day.

In other words: context matters. It really does.

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JWatts
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
What riled these kids up in the first place is that they didn't think the Mexican immigrants attending their school were sufficiently American enough to be extended the default assumption that they love America; therefore, their celebration of Mexican culture was perceived -- perhaps rightly, perhaps wrongly -- as a celebration of Mexican culture instead of American culture.

Do you have any kind of source for this or are you making this up out of thin air?

Sure, context matters, but a far more likely explanation was these kids were a little taken aback at how this school went overboard with Cinco de Mayo celebrations and actually had Mexican dancers, musicians, etc there for the day.

If it had been a foreign cultural event, that would have meant one thing, but half of the school's population was Hispanic. Everyone at the school was familiar with the Mexican culture, so this wasn't an educational opportunity. It was literally a school sponsored Mexican-American holiday celebration.

So a group of five kids decided to say, "Hey our culture is important too!". Was it a little in your face, sure. But fair is fair and justice must work both ways. Tolerance is a two way street and both sides have to practice it.

That's the point you fail to see. You think the one side must defer to the other side. Which is patently ridiculous and will breed nothing but contempt. That kind of action will lead to more racism and bigotry not less.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
...a far more likely explanation was these kids were a little taken aback at how this school went overboard with Cinco de Mayo celebrations and actually had Mexican dancers, musicians, etc there for the day.

If it had been a foreign cultural event, that would have meant one thing, but half of the school's population was Hispanic. Everyone at the school was familiar with the Mexican culture, so this wasn't an educational opportunity...

So, to clarify: had it been any other culture being celebrated, the celebrations would have been okay. But in the context of a half-Hispanic school, this amounted to celebrating Mexican culture too much.

Am I understanding you correctly?

quote:
Tolerance is a two way street and both sides have to practice it.
My wife gets very cold at night, so she tends to grab the bedcovers and tuck them all around her body when she sleeps. I, on the other hand, generally prefer a colder sleeping environment. But there have been a couple times when I've felt a chill and tugged the sheet over to my side of the bed, only to have her snap awake and wail, "Hey! Stop hogging the covers!"

So, yes, I am familiar with the principle you're proposing. [Wink]

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JWatts
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
So, to clarify: had it been any other culture being celebrated, the celebrations would have been okay. But in the context of a half-Hispanic school, this amounted to celebrating Mexican culture too much.

Am I understanding you correctly?

In the context of suppressing another culture it did. If celebrating Mexican-American culture involves suppressing American culture in an American school then it is definitely too much.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
If celebrating Mexican-American culture involves suppressing American culture...
And we agree that this is not in fact what happened, correct?
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Athelstan
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Didn’t President Obama ban the flying of the US flag over the compound in Haiti. Either he or his staff must have thought the sight of it contentious to the native population. In the UK we have no such problems with the US flag and I expect it to be flying everywhere when the UK celebrates American Independence Day . We do have problems with flying the Union flag in the UK though, with its right wing connotations. Personally I prefer wearing England’s flag, the old Cross of St George, as it is certain to be respected in the Middle East.

According to the report the incident happened on a Mexican Heritage Day. Of course not for me to judge but I can’t work out if Arizona’s new laws governing the State Board of Education are helpful in improving human relations. Headlines like Arizona Ethnic Studies Classes Banned, Teachers With Accents Can No Longer Teach English don’t seem very informative and I’m not sure if HB2281 is actually law there yet.

quote:
Prohibits a school district or charter school from including in its program of instruction any courses or classes that:

Promote the overthrow of the United States government.
Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.
Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.
Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.

Should it be a case of instead of banning flags, ban Heritage Days.
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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
If celebrating Mexican-American culture involves suppressing American culture...
And we agree that this is not in fact what happened, correct?
[Smile]

I would have to agree that philosophically, yes, celebrating cinco-de-mayo does not in any way suppress American culture. Cinco de mayo IS AMERICAN CULTURE. As stated by many, I believe that the holiday is primarily celebrated in the United States, not Mexico.

Which is why the official flag of cinco de mayo should be the American flag! LOL.

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Aris Katsaris
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quote:
If you and I agree that smurfs are not satanic, and yet a third person believes that smurfs are symbols of the devil, then who is correct?
I understand "symbol of" to mean "is meant to convey the concept of".

So the response to your question about who is correct: The person who correctly perceived what meaning was attempted to be conveyed by the person utilizing the symbol.

So if I draw a smurf, or wear a t-shirt with a smurf, I'm communicating a symbol of the devil only if I mean it to convey the concept of the devil. The person who originally created the T-Shirt may have also meant it as symbol of something different than what I mean it as a symbol of.

In the same way: the American flag is a symbol of "F_ck you, Mexicans", only if the people using the flag use it to convey the meaning of "F_ck you, Mexicans".

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TomDavidson
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quote:
I would have to agree that philosophically, yes, celebrating cinco-de-mayo does not in any way suppress American culture. Cinco de mayo IS AMERICAN CULTURE. As stated by many, I believe that the holiday is primarily celebrated in the United States, not Mexico.
This is not an example of Socratic obtuseness.
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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
I would have to agree that philosophically, yes, celebrating cinco-de-mayo does not in any way suppress American culture. Cinco de mayo IS AMERICAN CULTURE. As stated by many, I believe that the holiday is primarily celebrated in the United States, not Mexico.
This is not an example of Socratic obtuseness.
LOL

Are you seriously so pissed off that I disagree with you? That you'd rather be pissed off and say I'm obtuse then try and find out why our opinions differ? To actually discuss something, break it down, find out how and why we are opposed on this? You don't think that's terrible at all? Why even come to a discussion forum?

Maybe you're not mad at all, you just think I'm hopelessly obtuse, but I don't think you have been asking me very many questions at all, but you've rather spent most of your time insisting that I'm a moron or acting like a moron rather then engaging me on any level, other then your side is right and if I can't see it, then I'm stupid.

Has debate, dialogue, reasoning, come to this for you? For all of us? Wasn't it yesterday that you described questioning as a form of conversation where information only goes one way? I've never heard "listening" and "learning" put so negatively.

[Frown]

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TomDavidson
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quote:
Are you seriously so pissed off that I disagree with you?
No. It's that you have absolutely no justification for your disagreement, so you pass your disagreement off as ignorance.

It is not my responsibility to ask you leading questions if you wish to provide me with information. I don't particularly care to imagine what you might think if you thought things which were not stupid.

It is not a "dialogue," really, if your "input" consists of playing the fool. If you wish to make a substantive point about why exactly you don't think we should consider the feelings of immigrant populations (or other nuances you might perceive), you are welcome to do so; I do not need to spend my time formulating questions designed to extract that point from you.

Rather, I will continue to treat you as if you have not made such a point, because you have not.

I insist "my side" is right because "my side" consists of the argument that symbols mean different things in context. There is, I trust, no actual disagreement on this point, because the people here on Ornery are not idiots -- even when they're pretending otherwise, because they can't bear to admit that, yes, they do actually understand where this whole "politically correct" thing comes from. Your side, as far as I can tell, consists of "Yeah, but it's the American flag, dude! We shouldn't ever stop Americans from doing what they want with the American flag, because, hey, it belongs to America!" Since I don't actually think you're stupid, I have been waiting for you to provide something a little less foolish.

Give me something to respect, Grant.

[ May 13, 2010, 09:21 AM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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edgmatt
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quote:
It's that you have absolutely no justification for your disagreement, so you pass your disagreement off as ignorance.
This shows the problem lies with you Tom, not Grant. There has been post after post describing the justification for the disagreement, and you have ignored it over and over again. You then have taken a condescending tone "I will help walk you through this, because it seems to be something you're having difficulty with", "Dude, you are not that clueless." and "I've spent a lot of words explaining this. Are you still having trouble?"

Not to mention the words you make up and put in those kids mouths--

"What riled these kids up in the first place is that they didn't think the Mexican immigrants attending their school were sufficiently American enough to be extended the default assumption that they love America; therefore, their celebration of Mexican culture was perceived -- perhaps rightly, perhaps wrongly -- as a celebration of Mexican culture instead of American culture."

"These kids wore American flags not because they were proud of America or thought flags were pretty, but because they wanted to convey the message that they were more proud of America than Mexico."

"They did so to make a point: this is America, not Mexico, and your (Hispanic) culture is not one we wish to welcome."

All of which is your perception of things, not reality.

Motive speculation, condensation, insults, ignoring posts and then complaining that there is no justification for the disagreement.

You've lost a good bit of credibility as a reasonable debater, and you should expect further responses to your posts to reflect that.
_______________________________________________

So we have established that Cinco De Mayo is more of an American holiday than a Mexican one? I would never have thought that, but if it's true, then the entire reason for those kids to be insulted has just been undermined, no?

quote:
Which is why the official flag of cinco de mayo should be the American flag! LOL.
If that's the case, then the principal really should have demanded that the Mexican kids take off their Mexican flag shirts seeing how it was a direct opposition to an American holiday.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
There has been post after post describing the justification for the disagreement...
No, there hasn't.
Some people have said they didn't understand why some American kids wearing an American flag on a specific day would be offensive to a specific population when wearing the American flag on another day might not offend. I explained why that was the case.

No one yet has actually made -- or, rather, attempted to justify -- the argument that we shouldn't care whether or not wearing the American flag on a certain day or for a certain reason actually offends anyone, but I eagerly await the opportunity to destroy such an argument when it's presented.

quote:
Motive speculation, condensation, insults, ignoring posts and then complaining that there is no justification for the disagreement.
I will freely admit to speculating on the motives of these kids, based on both the described actions and their own statements in interviews. In my defense, this entire situation is about motive speculation: namely, what a symbolic act is perceived to mean, and why speculation into the motives of that act directly affect the perceived meaning of the symbol. I have not ignored anyone's posts; rather, people have been posting irrelevant asides. (If you can find a single relevant point I haven't addressed, please bring it to my attention.) And I haven't been condensing; I've been condescending. Like just then.

quote:
You've lost a good bit of credibility as a reasonable debater, and you should expect further responses to your posts to reflect that.
No, I haven't. I think you'll find that the people who don't think I'm a reasonable debater are, in a nutshell, some of our most unreasonable debaters. If you don't think I'm good at debating, you are almost certainly very bad at it.

quote:
So we have established that Cinco De Mayo is more of an American holiday than a Mexican one? I would never have thought that, but if it's true, then the entire reason for those kids to be insulted has just been undermined, no?
No. Again, I would be happy to explain why, if you're interested.

But let me point out that it is very amusing to see the kneejerk anti-liberals here fall over themselves in their desperation to come up with some reason why this might not offend. It'd be funny if I didn't think they were convincing themselves.

[ May 13, 2010, 10:09 AM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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The Drake
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I still don't know why everyone is so worked up over this.

A principal has the right to tell a kid what to wear. Arbitrarily. He or she does not need a justification. They are dictators. There is no right to free speech or due process or protection from unreasonable searches. There is no appeal.

About the only freedom present in a school environment is freedom of religion. There is no freedom of nationalism.

Was it unfair? Yeah, probably. Along with everything else a principal metes out as punishment or edict. Maybe some of us have been out of school long enough to forget that.

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DonaldD
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To clarify a point, since two competing hypotheticals keep sailing past each other in the night, so to speak: the flag bearing group may have 1) completely randomly, as on many other days of the year and without any intentional reference to May 5, worn american flag shirts and bandanas, 2) did so as some form of protest of the May 5 celebration or 3) Did so with the specific intent of instigating some response in the May 5 celebrants.

There is also probably a whole spectrum between these different positions/motivations. One can hypothesize any level of such motivations for the sake of argument, and even debate the likelihood of one or the other premise. But we can certainly debate a particular hypothesis without necessarily agreeing with the premise, and there can be value in doing so.

In this case, we can debate the flag symbology in the context of the different possible motivations of the flag wearers. But throwing out the hypothesis in this case simply based on disagreement with the assumed premise simply serves to take yourself out of that debate. It does not actually say anything about the validity of the argument behind the hypothesis

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TomDavidson
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To address your possibilities:

1) Yes, they may have chosen to all, as a group, wear American flags and cluster together in the cafeteria on May 5th just because. This is, however, far and away the least likely explanation, assuming the kids aren't as dumb as a box of hammers and thus possess some situational awareness. Based on their interview statements, which make winking nods to the importance of patriotism and are in some cases baldly disingenuous, I see no evidence of stupidity and ample evidence that they expected their dress choice to be perceived as a statement of some sort.

Frankly, I think it's offensively disingenuous to even pretend that it's a likely possibility, in the same way that it adds insult to injury when, after hitting someone in the back of the head with a stick, the attacker chooses to "hide" the stick behind his back and whistle innocently, as if he were not actually caught in the act.

2) and 3) are, as far as I'm concerned, the same possibility -- namely, that they wanted to make a point. #3 only differs in that the students anticipated and perhaps desired a hostile reaction, whereas a hostile reaction is only one of many possible consequences of #2.

Heck, I'm even willing to posit a fourth possibility: that the kids, feeling left out because they weren't being invited to wear American flags in school on the Fourth of July (perhaps because it's a national holiday, with parades and fireworks and everything, and schools are closed), seized the opportunity on a day in which some national flags were being displayed to, completely innocently and possessed only of the desire to proudly display their own flag on a day on which national flags were presumably being displayed, wear some flag-based clothing. The kids in this scenario are, as in scenario #1, incredibly dumb, but I am willing to entertain the possibility that dumb children exist in general and that my own assessment of these kids, based on their statements, may be in error.

--------

Importantly, though, let me point out that no one has seriously postulated #1, nor made any argument for it. I have not, in other words, failed to address the hypotheticals presented here; there are no hypotheticals other than mine that have actually been presented.

[ May 13, 2010, 10:46 AM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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Grant
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[Smile]

Ok. This is what I was trying to get to bit by bit, through questioning, through discussion, to find out just at what point we think differently. The best way for me to do that was to ask questions, to learn why we thought differently on this subject, to discover what lies behind the opinion. I consider it my responsibility to try and understand others who disagree with me, and to try and come to a mutual agreement. To come together as individuals of reasoning rather then just be content to argue.

I understand your argument. The Chicano children of the high school, at least a few of them supposedly, were offended by the symbol of the American Flag, because the context of the meaning of why it was worn, and because of the intent behind the wearers. I will not get into a long debate on those premises, other then to point out that so far there has been no proof of the wearers intent to disrespect Mexican-Americans, or Cinco de Mayo, by wearing the flag. Again I stress, no proof of intent, I do not dispute that somebody was offended.

Now, the core of my arguement, and the core of my belief, is that there are two kinds of feelings of being offended. I believe that there is "just offense", where offense is righteous, and "unjust offense" where offense is unrighteous. I believe that we can together come to a consensus of what constitutes these two types of offense, to a community and societal ideal of what constitutes good manners.

First, I challenge the concept that there is no such thing as "unjust" and "just" offense, and that the only criteria for righteous offense is that offense was taken. This is the purely subjective theory. This theory would state "we must respect the feelings of these people, their feelings are real and genuine, so they are just." I do not believe that is the case, I do not believe that we as a people necessarily need to respect every feeling that an individual has, including offense.

Next, I will move on to the criteria for defining righteous and unrighteous offense. The first things to consider is 1. intent, and 2. effect. I have already discussed effect. Just because a person feels disrespected or offended, does not mean that being offended is justified. Next, the idea that offense is somehow justified by the intent of the offender. Thus "I am offended because the other means to offend me." First, that relegates your emotional response to any situation to someone other then yourself. Your emotional control is thus subject to others actions, rather then your own self control. I think we can discuss or come to an agreement that allowing our emotional responses to be controlled by the intents of others is not the best way to go about things, especially if you've been in anger management classes. Thus, being offended is essentially not dependant on either intent or effect, but if we had to weight one, I would certainly say that intent has more to do with justifying righteous offense then the simple effect.

Now we come to the symbolism portion of the discussion, and weather or not a symbol can be offensive with or without intent. If a man wishes to offend me, runs up to me and flips me the bird, I suppose I have just cause to be offended, if I choose to allow the man's actions to rule my emotions. If a man wishes to offend me, runs up to me, and flips me the peace sign, for some reason I personally would not be offended. His intent is surely to offend me, but instead of offense, I feel amusement. I suppose I could take offense at the simple concept that the man wishes to offend me, but I instead I do not take offense. Weather the man has given me cause for righteous offense could be debated, which I would be happy to do, and which I think we have been doing for awhile now. Regardless, the fault, the offender, is the other man, not the peace symbol, which does not imply offense or insult. The meaning of the symbol, the consensus agreement within society of the meaning of the symbol, does not change with the man using it to offend me, at least in my opinion. The agreed meaning of the peace symbol cannot be changed by the man's desire to use it as an offensive symbol.

Now lets discuss symbolism and lack of intent. Lets say I am in a foreign country, and a smiling man flips me the bird. Should I be offended? If in fact in this country the meaning of the bird is "good morning"? In this case I do not believe that offense is justified, because there is no intent to offend. As others have stated, it is simple miscommunication rather then insult. While the bird may mean one thing to me, it means something totally different to the other man.

Now we come to the case in hand. We have definately agreed upon the idea that SOMEONE was offended by the act of wearing American flags on cinco de mayo. There is no debate on that. First let us identify intent. There has been a great deal of talk accusing the kids of the intent to offend by wearing the flag, but no proof has yet been given that it was the case. Wearing the flag as a statement does not prove intent to offend, because as most of us will also agree, making a statement is not just cause to take offense. Whatever that statement is, I think that a simple statement of disagreement is not cause to take offense. Perhaps there are statements that could justify offense. Surely "Mexicans are trash", etc, could be deemed offensive and give cause for righteous offense. However, there has been no proof given that the flag was worn to convey this message, only conjecture by certain individuals.

Now we leave behind intent and come to effect. Again, there is no debate that someone was offended. Case closed.

Now we come to the symbolism of the flag. The primary argument is that the symbolism of the flag can change with the context it is used. After much questioning, no one has yet told me what the American Flag symbolized to the offended in this case, other then the fact that it could symbolize "America is better than Mexico" or some variation thereof. This context is again dependent on intent, which has not been proven. I believe that the agreed upon meaning of a symbol cannot change simply through context or how it is used, as other have stated. I believe that the American Flag cannot be a symbol of hatred or divisiveness regardless of how it is used, or how it is received, just the way the peace symbol cannot be used as a symbol of offense. There must be an agreement by and large that the American Flag is offensive, and why. Since the American Flag represents the United States, we must show that the United States is or has been offensive to Mexican-Americans. This is open to debate I am sure.

[ May 13, 2010, 10:50 AM: Message edited by: Grant ]

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DonaldD
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quote:
Importantly, though, let me point out that no one has seriously postulated #1, nor made any argument for it.
Well, depending on how you measure "seriously", edgmatt seemed to allude to such a possibility, if only as to rebut what he seemed to assume was an unwarranted assumption. My point was that it doesn't really matter: if edgmatt wants to make an argument about #1 or #4, that's fine, but let's not pretend it has anything to do with the ongoing debate being made about #2/#3.
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Grant
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To show that I do understand the idea that symbols can be used and understood in different contexts, I will posit some situations where I believe the American Flag can be displayed, in times and places, that could possibly justify offense.

Flying or displaying the American flag in Hiroshima, on the anniversary of the atomic bombing.

Flying or displaying the American flag at Wounded Knee, on the anniversary of the massacre.

Another one.

Flying the Japanese Flag over the grave the the USS Arizona.

Flying or displaying the Saudi flag at ground zero in New York.

None of these situations demand offense, but they could be offensive in the context of people's feelings. You see I do get it.

But wearing an American flag, in an American school, on ANY day, should not be cause for offense. It is independent of intent and effect.

The difference truly does lie in the context of the situation. We could define these in greater detail.

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DonaldD
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quote:
Originally posted by Grant:
Since the American Flag represents the United States, we must show that the United States is or has been offensive to Mexican-Americans.

This presumes that the US Flag only represents the USA and nothing else. But to many people, the US flag also represents freedom, the struggle against tyranny, the hope for a better future and many other concepts, none of which are coextensive with the concept of the USA.

It also presumes that nothing about the USA today is offensive to Mexican Americans specifically or latino Americans in general.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
Next, I will move on to the criteria for defining righteous and unrighteous offense.
I certainly don't mind having this conversation, but I do want to point out that schools have repeatedly been told that they can't ignore offensive behavior, no matter whether or not the offense taken is "righteous" or not. So, in other words, this distinction is entirely academic.

That said...


quote:
The first things to consider is 1. intent, and 2. effect. I have already discussed effect.
Not quite. You have dismissed effect, by essentially arguing that the person offering the offense is completely innocent of offense taken. By this logic, a person who accidentally bumps his bike into me while we're hiking along a trail, knocking me into the gorge, is not responsible for my fall into the gorge and my subsequent maiming; rather, I am to blame for not guarding against the possibility of being bumped by bicycles.

The interesting thing about this is that it is to some extent true, in that we certainly do benefit from maintaining enough control over our situations to be able to dictate our responses to unanticipated negative inputs (be they offenses or bumps). But this is not as exculpatory as you seem to think, because in practice our control over ourselves and our environment is at best imperfect, and in many cases hugely flawed.

I submit, for example, that the children of Mexican immigrants, many possibly illegal, may be less likely to be able to rigidly control their responses to a direct insult of their culture (a culture they may already feel is maligned and despised); their situation is such that it is perhaps not entirely reasonable to expect logically flawless emotional decisions from them as a group. In the same way, it might be slightly unreasonable to expect me, as I'm walking along a marked path with clearly posted "No Bicycles" signs, to hear an oncoming bike approaching from behind me and leap out of the way.

In other words, optimal behavior in practice is so rare that it is not a reasonable expectation. Some of this is even biological; certain attacks prompt fight/flight reactions which need to be consciously tamped down, something that can be quite difficult if you haven't trained for it.

If I call you an idiot, it is not your fault that you get offended. Your responses are your own, of course, but that first "oh, he's insulting me; therefore, I'm offended" is a perfectly reasonable and predictable reaction, even if you personally have learned to evaluate and reject it.

There certainly are things which unreasonably offend someone. I recall a flap over the use of the word "niggardly," which ultimately amounted to someone unfamiliar with the etymology of the word asserting that the user of the word should have anticipated that people would wrongly assume an offensive etymology and thus avoid its use. I'll concede that it is unreasonable to expect someone to go out of his or her way to avoid offending anyone, ever, no matter what; such a scenario is impossible. But I do not see that deliberately making a show of wearing flags to school in order to make a public statement constitutes a reasonable effort to avoid offense; in fact, it strongly appears the opposite. (To use the above analogy, imagine if the person using the word "niggardly" did so in this manner: "I think we have spend Katrina relief funds very niggar-dly. Very niggar-dly indeed. And that should especially be a concern to all those black people down there, who certainly don't want to be treated like niggar-dly people are treating them."

quote:
Next, the idea that offense is somehow justified by the intent of the offender. Thus "I am offended because the other means to offend me."
I think there are actually two offenses here, believe it or not. The first is the intended offense, which may or may not hit its mark. Calling me stupid, for example, does not offend me; I know I am not stupid. However, I know the person intended to offend me, and intending to offend me is offensive to me. I submit, moreover, that it is offensive to almost everyone; it represents a deliberate breach of the social contract, which is built upon the assumption that we do not deliberately harm each other.

quote:
Regardless, the fault, the offender, is the other man, not the peace symbol, which does not imply offense or insult.
No argument here. You'll notice that, in the example we're discussing in this thread, the American flag was not suspended from school. To continue your analogy, it would be akin to the principal saying, "Billy, please stop flipping the peace sign at people."

quote:
Whatever that statement is, I think that a simple statement of disagreement is not cause to take offense.
I would actually argue that, in the context of a celebration of national heritage, a statement of disagreement is cause to take offense. Without additional qualifiers, the statement reads "I disagree with this celebration of national heritage," i.e. "I don't think this celebration of national heritage should be happening." I do not think it is remotely unreasonable for people to then conclude that they object to that celebration for reasons which would be offensive to people of the heritage being celebrated, especially since no actual reasons are being put forward.

quote:
After much questioning, no one has yet told me what the American Flag symbolized to the offended in this case...
I have actually said it five times in this thread alone: the symbol meant "we are celebrating American heritage instead of Mexican heritage." I know you read those posts, since you replied to them.

quote:
I believe that the American Flag cannot be a symbol of hatred or divisiveness regardless of how it is used...
This is an idiotic belief. On what do you base it?

[ May 13, 2010, 11:31 AM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by DonaldD:
quote:
Originally posted by Grant:
Since the American Flag represents the United States, we must show that the United States is or has been offensive to Mexican-Americans.

It also presumes that nothing about the USA today is offensive to Mexican Americans specifically or latino Americans in general.
Oh jeez. I would never presume that. I am sure there are plenty of things ANYBODY can find offensive about the USA today, but I'm sure the Mexican list would be longer then the majority. But then the question arises weather it was the United States itself that caused offense, or certain citizens, governments, political parties or politicians? Does the United States, as an idea, as an institution, as a symbol, necessarily bear the sins of all it's children? There seems to be a question of accountability involved, both for the country, and for individuals, and for the American people as a whole.

Perhaps we can agree that the Flag only represents the best of us? That could be too much to ask.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
Perhaps we can agree that the Flag only represents the best of us?
That would be a profoundly stupid thing to agree to. More practically, it would be impossible to obtain such agreement.

Would you agree that the cross only represents Catholics who are currently in a state of grace?

[ May 13, 2010, 11:33 AM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Would you agree that the cross only represents Catholics who are currently in a state of grace?
And of course, if someone plants a cross in your yard overnight, it's got to be a positive uplifting message, right?
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DonaldD
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quote:
Originally posted by Grant:
Perhaps we can agree that the Flag only represents the best of us?

It would be too much to ask in the context of people using the flag to communicate the worst aspects of US society, yes, which is the premise that we are working under currently.
quote:
Does the United States, as an idea, as an institution, as a symbol, necessarily bear the sins of all it's children?
Yes? Sometimes? If you are going to throw out a generic line like "the American Flag represents the United States" and have it mean something, then yes.

Once again, you are letting your own beliefs about what the flag should represent (in an idealized world) get in the way of what it actually represents to different people in different contexts.

[ May 13, 2010, 11:43 AM: Message edited by: DonaldD ]

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Grant
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Thanks for calling my beliefs idiotic. And then asking a question rather then positing your own belief to why it is idiotic, which I was so castigated for.

I admit upon thought that the flag can be justly found offensive if displayed on certain occasions. I still affirm that I do not believe the flag can be a symbol of hatred and divisiveness, because the United States as a whole does not represent this, and the flag is a symbol of the united states.

Where we differ seems to be in the ideal of intent. You believe that the intent to offend is just cause to take offense. This seems overly sensitive to me, though I understand it. The second point is your belief that "a statement of disagreement is cause for offense, the the context of a celebration of national heritage." I don't think we can ever allow disagreement to be cause to take offense. People are entitled to their opinions. Teaching children that they do not have to suffer dissenting opinions without resorting to offense and anger is probably not the best way to prepare them for adulthood.

I think the fact that you believe that a dissenting opinion can be offensive explains a lot about your personality Tom.

[ May 13, 2010, 11:50 AM: Message edited by: Grant ]

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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by DonaldD:
quote:
Originally posted by Grant:
Perhaps we can agree that the Flag only represents the best of us?

Once again, you are letting your own beliefs about what the flag should represent (in an idealized world) get in the way of what it actually represents to different people in different contexts.
Ahhh, there you have me perhaps. We obviously have different interpretations on the meaning of the flag, even in a distinct context. I will admit my view of it is rosey, but that's the way I am, I'm an optimist when it comes to my country and flag. [Smile]

This does not invalidate my view of the flag, or any other individuals view of the flag. To do this we must actually discuss the reasoning behind our views. If we have faulty reasoning behind our view, then perhaps we can invalidate it, once we assume that a view can be incorrect.

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DonaldD
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This is all so reminiscent of the flag burning debate: to people who can only ascribe universally positive symbolic value to the flag, burning the flag must seem a perverted, evil and irrational action. But to those who see the flag as symbolizing evil (even if only in a subset of contexts - racism, imperialism, authoritarianism, etc) there is possibly nothing wrong and much good in burning the flag when it represents that evil.
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JoshCrow
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quote:
Originally posted by Grant:
The second point is your belief that "a statement of disagreement is cause for offense, the the context of a celebration of national heritage." I don't think we can ever allow disagreement to be cause to take offense. People are entitled to their opinions. Teaching children that they do not have to suffer dissenting opinions without resorting to offense and anger is probably not the best way to prepare them for adulthood.

I think the fact that you believe that a dissenting opinion can be offensive explains a lot about your personality Tom.

Grant, virtually all instances of offense stem from a disagreement. If someone called my country stupid, it is both an opinion and offensive. Perhaps the point you'd be better off making is how one deals with being offended, not whether something is offensive.

edited to add: in fact, it took me a moment to even think of an offensive comment that was NOT a disagreement.... for example, a statement of an inconvenient fact. Like if someone tells me "you're fat!" I can be offended while not disagreeing with the statement.

[ May 13, 2010, 12:04 PM: Message edited by: JoshCrow ]

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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by DonaldD:
This is all so reminiscent of the flag burning debate: to people who can only ascribe universally positive symbolic value to the flag, burning the flag must seem a perverted, evil and irrational action. But to those who see the flag as symbolizing evil (even if only in a subset of contexts - racism, imperialism, authoritarianism, etc) there is possibly nothing wrong and much good in burning the flag when it represents that evil.

I have to agree Donald, though I support the right of an individual to burn the flag, my personal feeling is not one of joy. But in a school setting? The flag was offensive? If you tell me the boys were being offensive, I can almost get that, if you tell me something specifically they said or did that was offensive. But the simple act of wearing a flag, even on cinco de mayo, jeez this has to have happened all over the place a million times. I don't remember anybody getting into a fight over this stuff before. Did it become offensive this year?
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