July 17, 2018 | ° F

American flag speaks to versatility

Students at UC Irvine call flag symbol of imperialism, colonialism


University student governments exist at the crux of bureaucracy. On the one hand, they are charged with representing student ideals and values. Alternatively, they are a part of a larger institution, one whose morals they are forced to uphold. Members of the Associated Students at the University of California, Irvine have been confronted with this reality. A small branch within the student government, known as the Legislative Council, passed a resolution with a 6-4 majority that banned the American flag from display in the lobby areas of student government offices. The resolution also banned the flags of all other nations from being displayed in the area. Four days later the resolution was vetoed by the Executive Cabinet of the student government and the point was rendered moot.

In passing the resolution, the students of the legislative council reasoned the American's flag is a symbol of “colonialism and imperialism,” and they’re right. America has long been a colonial power, but not in the traditional connotation. Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands and the Marshall Islands are some of the nation's current colonies, even though they are not subject to exploitation and referred to as territories. Similarly, America's status as an imperial nation is questionable. Imperialism implies running an empire, being a nation that strictly controls the actions of others nations and punishes them for noncompliance. Contrastingly, the nation is inadvertently culturally imperial. American style, music and mannerisms are among some of the cultural trends that other nations have adopted and begun to adhere to. Therefore, depending on which way you cut it, America can be viewed as a colonial and imperial nation as the students at UC Irvine concluded.

America lives by a social contract. In most instances, the rights and liberties of the few can be subject to change in order to fit the values of the many. And that’s just how it works. But that being said, doesn’t flying the flag represent the ideals of the majority at the possible expense of a few? The American flag and national flags in general hold different meaning for every individual. But the nation's flag is majorly representative of freedom. The history of the flag details an enticing narrative of the nation's founding values and subsequent versatility. Within the country’s found freedom, there was an initial quest to achieve such a status and presently, there is a quest to preserve it through preservation. However, the nation’s citizens and government have committed missteps. Some of these transgressions are forgivable and a few of them are not. America is not perfect and the American flag epitomizes imperfection in its truest sense.

At its inception, the flag had thirteen stripes and thirteen stars to represent the number of colonies. As the nation has expanded and adapted, the number of stars has grown to fifty. The number of stripes has remained the same, as a means of paying homage to the nation's founding principles. The evolution of the flag shows America’s adaptability and strength. It shows that as a nation, we have the power to evolve while keeping our ideals intact.

As we saw a few weeks ago with the Rutgers University Student Association’s failed attempt to pass a bill that would pay forthcoming executive boards, not all student government actions represent the ideals of the student body at large. The same can be said for the American flag. Not all citizens of the nation agree with what it stands for. But just as a student government represents the student body and the administration, the American flag represents its citizens and the nation as an institution. We do not always have to agree with our symbols and the icons that represent us as a majority. Such controversies make for good debate and serve as an appropriate cause to reinforce or reevaluate ideals.

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