Thursday, March 30, 2006

On Culture, Flags & the Boundaries of Propriety

Students at a Houston, Texas, USA, public high school are sporting the flag of Mexico as they join coordinated protests of pending federal immigration legislation. But to top it off, the principal of their school flew the Mexican flag (along with the flags of the U.S. and Texas) on Wednesday. This set some people off. We understand why.

Houston Chronicle writer Jennifer Radcliffe had this quote in her story.
Some Reagan students said they will try to raise a Mexican flag again today. They said they want it to fly at least above the Texas flag on the pole.

"Just because you're in the country doesn't mean you can't show your culture," said Lewis Ramirez, 16, a sophomore at Reagan High.

Granted, Master Ramirez is only 16, yet his view is shared by tens of thousands of others who are much older, so let's deal with it.

The national flag of Mexico is not culture. It's the standard of a nation with its own laws and requirements. It is the flag to which a good Mexican patriot should pledge allegiance, symbolic of those things for which he should be willing to risk his life, his liberty, and his sacred honor. It's a good flag. For Mexico.

The flag of the United States of America is also a good flag, a grand old flag that is symbolic of all that has gone before, and of the promise of what may yet be. In its red, white and blue glory the flag of the United States calls to its patriots in every generation to defend with their lives, their liberty and their sacred honor the freedoms which permit persons of different cultures to co-exist in a nation governed not be men of culture, but by laws of fairness, truth and justice.

A national boundary is not just a river, or a line across the sand. One does not lightly wave a national flag over foreign soil. Done improperly, it is a declaration of disrespect, hostility or worse. There are permissive moments, as when sports teams compete, where permission is given to fly foreign flags. There are strange moments, such as when the South Koreans planted their flag on the pitchers mound at Anaheim Stadium after an emotional win over team Japan in the recent World Baseball Classic, that can usually be excused.

When people take to the streets in civil disobedience (and school truancy is a civilly disobedient act) and wave foreign flags while objecting to U.S. legislation, and through language and signs advocate the reconquest of the American Southwest, the act is not designed to foster peace, love and understanding. As St. John Lennon once wrote, "If you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow."

It's in that sort of category anyway.

Let us review: a national flag is not a display of culture. It is much more important than that.

We appreciate Mexican people and Mexican culture. Enjoy being around it, sometimes even prefer it.

But we have no desire or reason to ever wish to live under the rule (or even the influence) of the laws of the Nation of Mexico. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever. We are patriots who understand that some things are worth fighting for, if that's what it takes.

UPDATE -- The Washington Times chimes in with this, "Room But for One Flag."


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