In the last edition of the Setonian, a student presented an opinion piece on a recent proposed flag-ban at the University of California, Irvine. Despite the fact that the ban was meant to extend to all national flags, in order to combat the ever-present force of nationalism, this student took particular offense at the idea of lowering the American flag.
Now, the parameters of the debate aside, it seems that this Setonian’s article was highlighting exactly the type of racist nationalism that students at UCI were trying to combat.
Perhaps I should have stopped when I saw the words “according to Fox News,” but I read on as the “article” quickly descended into paranoid xenophobic rhetoric as the writer stopped focusing on the flag and turned her vitriol to what she so-tellingly called “illegal aliens.”
Despite the fact that there seems to be no direct correlation between this event and the existence of undocumented immigrants (at UCI or elsewhere). Of course, I am a bit embarrassed for our university that such misinformation and racist rhetoric can be allowed to be presented as news or fact. Especially since SHU, like UCI and all universities, should be places of new ideas and intellectual growth. And yet, it seems to highlight just the type of old-fashioned national division that these students were trying to address.
On a fundamental level, national flags serve to denote the difference between “us” and “them.” Between those born on one side of an imaginary line, and another. Between those deserving of having thoughts and feelings taken into account in public forums, and others, like those damn “illegal aliens,” like me.
And that is why instead of defending her flag, this author and fellow Setonian chose to attack me and others like me. Because at a certain point, Americanism, ultra-nationalism, whatever you may call it, must face its foundational principle: we are great, because we are not them. And their opinion about it doesn’t matter. I don’t necessarily think we need to remove all flags—but perhaps we should reconsider our pride, and the source of that pride—and just why it is that it is “ours,” and no one else’s.
Raul Ausa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.