A few days ago, Chicago Sun Times movie critic Roger Ebert responded to the incident where American flag-wearing high school students were asked to leave school on Cinco de Mayo. Ebert tweeted, "Kids who wear American Flag t-shirts on 5 May should have to share a lunchroom table with those who wear a hammer and sickle on 4 July."
I haven't reviewed all the responses to Ebert's statement (this is in the trivialities category after all), but at least two from rightwing bloggers were even dumber than that tweet. Caleb Howe of RedState responded with a series of vile tweets, ending in him apologizing (link). And Dan Riehl responded to the latter , saying that while Howe "probably" went "a little too far", his big mistake was in apologizing.
Instead of being like RedState and Riehl, let's show how Ebert is wrong, based on his latest response to all of the above (link).
Let's imagine that a group of Americans - picture Up With People! - went to Mexico and, on Mexican Independence Day, marched through the streets waving U.S. flags. That would at the least result in their expulsion (see, for instance, this), as well as a series of tearful letters from the U.S. State Department. That would be antagonistic and offensive, and Mexicans would have the right to take offense (although, unlike in the U.S. where we have a First Amendment, Mexico would go much further than simply responding with more speech).
On the other hand, let's imagine that the same Up With People! group went to a high school football game in Ohio and did the same march. Everyone would applaud, right?
Or, let's imagine that Up With People! marched in the St. Patrick's Day parade in Chicago. Everyone would applaud in that case too, right? Someone can celebrate Irish and other ethnic heritage while at the same time being a 100% patriotic American.
Compare that to the response of those Mexican and Mexican-American students to the U.S. flag.
What Ebert doesn't understand is that this is the U.S., and the flag represents this country. If you have a problem with the U.S. flag, then you have a problem with the U.S. Maybe there's some justification for that, but the fact remains that if you find the U.S. flag offensive under any conditions that reveals that you have some sort of dispute with the U.S.
To make that clearer, let's imagine that a group of Mexican partisans went to rebel territory in Chiapas and marched through the streets waving Mexican flags. That would be perfectly natural and shouldn't rightfully cause offensive - they're in Mexico - but it probably wouldn't be welcomed very much due to the fact that many in that state have a dispute with the Mexican government.
When members of an ethnic group take offense by a display of a U.S. flag on one of their holidays, that indicates not a problem with the flag-wavers but with those taking offense. They have some dispute with the U.S.; in this case they're Mexican partisans (even if they're Mexican-Americans) who may in some degree dispute the sovereignty of the U.S. Not all Mexican-Americans do, of course. However, those taking offense do to some degree dispute the sovereignty of the U.S.
Note also that Ebert objects to another new Arizona law, this one banning certain types of ethnic studies classes in high schools:
The State Superintendent of Schools believes such courses promote "ethnic chauvinism." American high schools promoted ethnic chauvinism for many long years when the favored ethnic group involved citizens of European descent. Is it a bad thing for us to learn more about the culture and history of those others who share this nation? Apparently so. Is that racism? I'll let you decide.
Whether "ethnic chauvinism" was promoted is open to debate, but in any case that's a tu quoque. And, it also shows just how little Ebert knows about these issues. Those classes weren't for "us" meaning anyone, they were just for specific ethnic groups and their teachings included anti-American aspects ("Guest opinion: Raza studies gives rise to racial hostility ", originally at tucsoncitizen.com/ss/opinion/85853.php but link bad, cached here) and racist speakers.
Fri, 05/14/2010 - 10:14 · Importance: 4