Monday, February 12, 2007

What Flags Are OK To Desecrate?

What do you call it when a group selectively uses the mechanisms of the State to suppress expression of a point of view they find politically objectionable?

If you're the San Francisco State University administration, the SFSU student council, Students Against War, the International Socialist Organization, or the General Union of Palestinian Students, you call it "protecting diversity," "preventing violence," or "promoting tolerance."

This story starts with an "anti-terrorism rally" held last October on campus by the College Republicans. To emphasize their point, students stomped on Hezbollah and Hamas flags. According to the college paper, the Golden Gate (X)Press, members of Students Against War and the International Socialist Organization showed up to call the Republicans "racists," while the president of the General Union of Palestinian Students accused the Repubs of spreading false information about Muslims.

In November, the Associated Students board passed a unanimous resolution, which the (X)Press reported, denounced the California Republicans for "hateful religious intolerance" and criticized those who "pre-meditated the stomping of the flags knowing it would offend some people and possibly incite violence."

Now you know that there are students who are opposed to desecrating flags on campus -- that is, if the flags represent terrorist organizations.

But wait -- there's more. A student filed a complaint with the Office of Student Programs and Leadership Development. OSPLD Director Joey Greenwell wrote to the College Republicans informing them that his office had completed an investigation of the complaint and forwarded the report to the Student Organization Hearing Panel, which will adjudicate the charge. At issue is the charge that College Republicans had walked on "a banner with the world 'Allah' written in Arabic script" -- it turns out Allah's name is incorporated into Hamas and Hezbollah flags -- and "allegations of attempts to incite violence and create a hostile environment," as well as "actions of incivility."

At an unnamed date, the student panel could decide to issue a warning to, suspend or expel the GOP club from campus.


The university's response? [SFSU] Spokesperson Ellen Griffin [said], "The university stands behind this process. [...] I don't believe the complaint is about the desecration of the flag. I believe that the complaint is the desecration of Allah."

So what if it is? If a student put a crucifix in a jar of urine, they probably would have gotten a scholarship from the art department. And if people will be uncontrollably driven to violence because someone expresses disgust with a terror organization who acts in the name of Allah, maybe they aren't ready to be Americans. At the very least, they should have had to re-take high school civics.

I oppose American flag burning legislation, because, as much as I'm offended by such action, real Americans respond to expression with either expression of their own, or by walking away. That's what it means to live in freedom. I imagine the SFSU folks also oppose laws against American flag burning, but considering the flag-selectivity of the administration and the complaining student organizations, I have to wonder if their reasons for that opposition have more to do with an approval of the message than any free speech principles.

Alas, this isn't limited to the rarefied atmosphere of San Francisco. At our own institution, the College Republicans had their "Affirmative Action" bake sale shut down by the University. Minute Men and their supporters were shouted down last October and ousted from their speaking event at Columbia. And speakers who violate the campus orthodoxy often face pies, disruption, and threats. At some law schools, new students are publicly warned away from the Federalist Society, and no faculty member will serve as their advisor.

None of this is new or surprising. But this kind of thuggery deserves to be exposed and mocked again and again and again. As often as it takes.


Anonymous said...

As if the PLOs' and American hippies' reasons for desecreting Old Glory have nothing to do with religion.

As if the distinction between what is political and what is religious is discernable.

Orrin Johnson said...

A small victory against the forces of double standardism - the Seattle University Law School chapter if the Men's Law Caucus was, over vociferous objection, approved as an official student organization yesterday.