Sherwin Pomerantz

America at Risk…Students Decide Flying the American Flag on Campus is Not Inclusive

On March 3rd the Associated Students – University of California Irvine (ASUCI) passed the following resolution introduced by students Matthew Guevara and Khaalidah Sidney (emphasis is mine):

  • Whereas flags are a symbol of a nation, are used as decorations and have a wide range of cultural significance.
  • Whereas flags are typically viewed as patriotic symbols of a single nation, are often associated with government and military due to their history and have a wide variety of interpretations.
  • Whereas the traditional patriotic interpretation of a flag is a result of a nation and/or persons who encourage a nationalistic understanding of the flag.
  • Whereas traditional understandings and ideologies, as encouraged by the national government, include liberty, democracy, constitution values and are up for interpretation on constituents.
  • Whereas flags not only serve as symbols of patriotism or weapons for nationalism, but also construct cultural mythologies and narratives that in turn charge nationalistic sentiments.
  • Whereas flags function specifically for a nation and
  • Whereas people are assimilated into national ideologies by deployment of this cultural artifact.
  • Whereas flags construct paradigms of conformity and set homogenized standards for others to obtain which in this country typically are idolized as freedom, equality, and democracy.
  • Whereas symbolism is interpreted differently by different groups or persons based on individual unique experiences.
  • Whereas a common ideological understanding of the United States includes American exceptionalism and superiority.
  • Whereas the American flag is commonly flown in government public service locations, military related entities, at homes, in foreign lands where the US government has a presence.
  • Whereas the American flag has been flown in instances of colonialism and imperialism.
  • Whereas symbolism has negative and positive aspects that are interpreted differently by individuals.
  • Whereas displaying a flag does not express only selective aspects of its symbolism but the entire spectrum of its interpretation.
  • Whereas designing a culturally inclusive space is taken seriously by ASUCI
  • Whereas designing a culturally inclusive space aims to remove barriers that create undue effort and separation by planning and designing spaces that enable everyone to participate equally and confidently.
  • Whereas the removal of barriers is the best option at promoting an inclusive space.
  • Whereas it is a psychological effect for individuals to identify negative aspects of a space rather than positive ones.
  • Whereas whenever public spaces are produced and managed by narrow interests, they are bound to become exclusive places and
  • Whereas the planning process must be inclusive in such that designers are advised to forget about the ‘average’ user or themselves and instead begin the open space designing process with ‘deep knowledge’ of the preferences of the actual communities who are likely to use those spaces
  • Whereas designers should be careful about using cultural symbols as the symbols will inherently remain open for interpretation.
  • Whereas once an open space is created, it is important to employ continual evaluation in order to understand changing use patterns and needs over time.
  • Whereas a high-quality culturally inclusive spaces is essential in any society that embodies a dynamic and multifaceted culture
  • Whereas freedom of speech is a valued right that ASUCI supports.
  • Whereas freedom of speech, in a space that aims to be as inclusive as possible can be interpreted as hate speech.

Let it be resolved that ASUCI make every effort to make the Associated Students main lobby space as inclusive as possible.

Let it further be resolved that no flag, of any nation, may be hanged on the walls of the Associate Student main lobby space.

Let it be further be resolved that if a decorative item is in the Associate student lobby space and issues arise, the solution will be to remove the item if there is considerable request to do so.

The motion, which was later vetoed by ASUCI Executive Cabinet, passed 6 in favor, 4 against with 2 abstentions.  It should be noted that the Executive Cabinet veto was not a “slam dunk” and requests for support had to be solicited in order to veto this anti-American resolution.  And, of course, if the resolution originally passed with 50% of those voting agreeing with the motion, how many more students on campus feel the same way?

The University of California – Irvine has been a hotbed of anti-Israel and even anti-American exceptionalism activity for quite some time so the passage of a resolution to ban the flying of the American flag in the ASUCI space follows somewhat naturally from such activity.  The irony, of course, is that the values that the flag represents are those values that permit citizens to exercise their democratic rights.  Nevertheless it is difficult not to worry about the future of America when those hard fought rights are used to negate everything those who fought and died in the flag’s defense valued so highly.

Commentator Dennis Prager has said: “I have never written that there is a threat of fascism in America. I always considered the idea overwrought. But now I believe there really is such a threat – and it will come draped not in an American flag, but in the name of tolerance and health.”  I could not have said it better.

About the Author
Sherwin Pomerantz is a native New Yorker, who lived and worked in Chicago for 20 years before coming to Israel in 1984. An industrial engineer with advanced degrees in mechanical engineering and business, he is President of Atid EDI Ltd., a 32 year old Jerusalem-based economic development consulting firm which, among other things, represents the regional trade and investment interests of a number of US states, regional entities and Invest Hong Kong. A past national president of the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel, he is also Former Chairperson of the Board of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies and a Board Member of the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce. His articles have appeared in various publications in Israel and the US.