College in Massachusetts takes down American flag
I went to school near where this happened, and grew up in the area. The only thing surprising to me honestly was that Hampshire College had a flag up at all. But, they took it down after the election results were in, for reasons which sort of escape me (see below for the school's full statement):
The college said it would stop flying the flag in order to allow a discussion about its many possible meanings to students and employees from diverse backgrounds. School spokesman John Courtmanche said previously that, while some students take pride in the American flag, for others it is "a powerful symbol of fear."
Um. The timing seems a little odd, no? Didn't the flag mean the same thing both before and after 200 million Americans voted in an election?
Unsurprisingly, the veterans community came together and held a very well-attended protest:
Hundreds of people gathered outside the West Street campus for the 1 p.m. rally. They waved flags of all sizes, carried signs bearing slogans like "No flag = no taxpayer (money)" and sang "God Bless America" in a booming chorus.
Speakers included veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, Springfield City Councilor Kateri Walsh and Westfield state Rep. John Velis, who served in Afghanistan, urged Hampshire College to fly the flag again.
Micah Welintokonis, a veteran from Coventry, Conn., said the school's decision is disgraceful.
"Coddling young men and women old enough to serve our country has zero educational value," said Welintokonis. "I am frustrated by the things going on in this country. Let us pray for our nation to move forward together."
Sarno called on Hampshire College President Jonathan Lash to reverse course, saying the flag symbolizes the sacrifices of veterans and their families.
The U.S., said Sarno, is "the beacon of hope. Freedom and democracy. And that is because of each and every one of our veterans, and those veterans who gave the ultimate sacrifice."
Again, that this happened at Hampshire won't be a surprise to anyone in the Western Mass area. The school's President made a statement on the flag issue, and it's about as confusing as you probably expected:
Some months ago, the Hampshire College Board of Trustees adopted a policy of periodically flying the flag at half-staff to mourn deaths from violence around the world. Last week, in the current environment of escalating hate-based violence, we made the decision to fly Hampshire's U.S. flag at half-staff for a time while the community delved deeper into the meaning of the flag and its presence on our campus. This was meant as an expression of grief over the violent deaths being suffered in this country and globally, including the many U.S. service members who have lost their lives. Our intention was to create the space for meaningful and respectful dialogue across the many perspectives represented in our community. Unfortunately, our efforts to inclusively convey respect and sorrow have had the opposite effect. We have heard from many on our campus as well as from neighbors in the region that, by flying the flag at half-staff, we were actually causing hurt, distress, and insult. Our decision has been seen as disrespectful of the traditional expression of national mourning, and has been especially painful to our Hampshire campus colleagues who are veterans or families of veterans. Some have perceived the action of lowering the flag as a commentary on the results of the presidential election - this, unequivocally, was not our intent. After some preliminary consultation with campus constituents (much more is needed), we decided on Friday that we will not fly the U.S. flag or any other flags on our college flagpole for the time being. We hope this will enable us in the near term to instead focus our efforts on addressing racist, misogynistic, Islamophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and behaviors. I ask our campus to join me in a commitment to living up to the ideals of our mission: to insist on diversity, inclusion, and equity from our leaders and in our communities; to constructively resist those who are opposing these values; and to actively and passionately work toward justice and positive change at Hampshire and in the world.
This is demonstrably ridiculous. Take for instance the statement that they were grieving over deaths, "including the many U.S. service members who have lost their lives." Then why now? US Militrary deaths are WAY down, what explains the timing if this was the case? The true issue is obviously the election, as nothing else has transpired that would have been a catalyst for this. They aren't truly saying that up until about 3 weeks ago there wasn't a focus on their "efforts on addressing racist, misogynistic, Islamophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and behaviors" are they? This has been what Hampshire College has been doing forever. Again, my only surprise is that they had an American Flag up in the first place.