University of California, Irvine Enforces American Flag Worship

March 16, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


The student Legislative Council of ASUCI (Associated Students, University of California, Irvine) recently voted for the removal of all flags in their lobby area “after their constituents and other students voiced concerns about its [an American flag’s] new presence in the space.” The flag had been put up there a month earlier by another ASUCI member looking for a place to display it after it had been used as a prop for a weekend retreat. Several times the flag was taken down by students in the leadership of ASUCI, only to be returned each time to its new location by others; this prompted the action by the Legislative Council.

According to one of the members of the Legislative Council who voted for the measure, some of the concerns about the large American flag suddenly put up in their lobby included its effect on undocumented students for whom “the flag represents a constant struggle to gain American citizenship.” She said it was also considered a “triggering symbol of U.S. imperialism and neo-colonialism and also as potentially disrespectful to the increasing international student population.” The members on the council who voted for the measure wanted to “promote a community space open for everyone, of all backgrounds and identities, to walk in freely and not be discouraged to engage with an entity on campus that is new to them.” (Khaalidah Sidney, “American Flag Disrupts Inclusivity,” New University, UCI’s official campus newspaper; March 8, 2015).

These students thought they should be able to have one space on campus where the diverse, international student community could feel free of what the measure described as symbols of patriotism or weapons of nationalism; of American exceptionalism and superiority; of cultural mythologies and narratives that promote nationalistic sentiments. Rather than “thinking like Americans,” the students were putting themselves in the shoes of the students from all over the world also attending UCI.

Visceral and vicious response goes viral

The response was visceral, and vicious, going viral in a matter of days. Members of the Executive Cabinet of ASUCI met in emergency session to reverse the flag ban, while the ASUCI president told a Fox News reporter, “It’s an attack on American values.” According to Fox News, “Zomorrodian [Reza Zommorrodian, ASUCI president] said he wants the American public to know that UC Irvine is a patriotic campus.”

The university released two official statements condemning the passing of this measure by the student group—and distancing themselves from it—fearful in part that the blowback from this simple act of internationalism would hurt their alumni donor base. The Chancellor of UC Irvine, Howard Gillman, blamed the controversy solely on the six students who voted for it, ending his statement by saying the campus will add more flagpoles near the entrance to the campus.

State officials at the highest level stepped in. State Senator Janet Nguyen, an alumna of UCI, and other legislators announced they would push to introduce a state constitutional amendment prohibiting state-funded universities in California from banning the U.S. flag. Flag-waving patriots were rallied far and wide. All six of the students who voted for the resolution, according to the New University paper, are still receiving “Derogatory comments, many of which were racialized, as well as threats of physical violence....” And an ASUCI meeting scheduled for March 10 was canceled by the university administration, reportedly because of credible threats.

The substance, and “danger,” of the students’ resolution

Nowhere in this reactionary tirade has the substance of the arguments that led to the ASUCI Legislative Council's vote been seriously addressed: because the students’ resolution indirectly strikes at the ugly core of American patriotism.

“American exceptionalism and superiority” has been used to justify every act of aggression the U.S. has committed against countries on every continent. “Cultural mythologies and narratives” about this country’s history ignore the centuries of kidnapping and enslavement of millions and millions of African peoples that provided the foundation for this country’s wealth and power in the world. The genocidal slaughter of the millions of Native peoples who once populated North America fighting to defend their territories being stolen by the European settlers; the theft of 40 percent of the territory of Mexico, with all of its gold, oil, silver, and other minerals from California to Texas—justified simply as “Manifest Destiny.” The students’ resolution states simply, in describing what might be felt by some of the campuses’ international community as unwelcoming, that “the American flag has been flown in instances of colonialism and imperialism.”

Bob Avakian’s BAsics states:

Now, of course, slavery was not the only factor that played a significant part in the emergence of the U.S. as a world power, whose economic strength underlies its massive military force. A major historical factor in all this was the theft of land, on a massive scale, from Mexico as well as from native peoples. But, in turn, much of that conquest of land was, for a long period of time up until the Civil War, largely to expand the slave system. “Remember the Alamo,” we are always reminded. Well, many of the “heroes” of the Alamo were slave traders and slave chasers....And expanding the slave system was a major aim of the overall war with Mexico, although that war also led to the westward expansion of the developing capitalist system centered in the northern United States. (BAsics: 1:2)

For the powers-that-be, even this glimpse of the reality behind the lies and hypocrisy of “the Greatest Country in the World” is just too dangerous; imagine a single space on a campus where students are allowed, even encouraged, to “stop thinking like Americans” and “start thinking about humanity.”

Many of the students involved have felt pressured as a result of the attacks on them to apologize for their resolution; by the disavowal by the administration of their school; by the threats; and even by the fear of the loss of future employment possibilities as a result of their action. The March 9 issue of New University reported that one of the student representatives told them “the apology statement released by her, as well as [other] representatives ... late Sunday night was pressed upon them by campus officials.” And another said that “in a meeting with Student Affairs, administrators told the representatives that they would only assist in the protection and well-being of the students if they released an apology.”

What has been brought to the surface through this incident is that those in authority recognize that the ugly, chauvinist, patriotic mythology justifying the crimes of this system here and around the world—so crucial to maintaining the coherence of this country—is growing thin. And that they are prepared to go to any lengths to protect this mythology about the history and present day reality of what this country represents from being questioned, challenged, and repudiated; and especially among the new generation of youth and students on the campuses and in the communities of America.


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