Well, I’m sitting at the kitchen table on an imposed and mandatory vacation! Yes, I live in Valdosta, that hotbed of political unrest (hee hee)! The campus at my workplace, Valdosta State University, is shut down and classes have been canceled. Only essential personnel are allowed on campus and they must wear their identification on a lanyard around their necks. Meanwhile, our somewhat schizophrenic community, while struggling to determine an identity that is either rural or urban depending on who you talk to, finds itself thrust upon the national news stage (I just watched a major segment on Fox News Channel)!
It’s interesting and coincidental that the VSU sports teams are known as the “Blazers” and our new brand slogan is “Ignite!” What ignited all this hullabaloo was a flawed protest against racial inequality which culminated in protesters walking on and even stomping on an American flag.
The protesters were subsequently confronted by a former air force officer who took umbrage with the method of protest and played “capture the flag” with them. I won’t mention motivation here, but to report that this officer left the air force after posing nude in Playboy magazine while draped by an American flag (irony anyone?).
The intrepid campus police arrived, rescued the flag and returned it to the protesters, handcuffed the anti-protest protester, escorted her off campus, and banned her from ever returning. All this was filmed by her daughter armed with a handy phone-cam. Was this pre-planned? “We report – you decide!” Did the news outlets pay for access to the video or the subsequent national interviews? (Hmmmm …) But, I digress!
I said “flawed” protest. No question about the existence of racial inequality in this country (and in all countries, actually). However, stomping on the stars and stripes seems a bit misguided – shouldn’t it be the “stars and bars?” The American flag team fought hard to overcome the racial tenets of the Confederate flag team. (I’m walking gingerly here because, after all, I live in the deep south!) Perhaps the original campus protesters couldn’t find a Confederate flag.
Anyway, it’s all academic (where did that phrase come from?) because the US Supreme Court has determined that walking/stomping on the American flag is an accepted form of free speech. Well, maybe not accepted but at least not illegal. I’ll bet if the anti-protester had been wearing her Playboy costume, many people would have tried to abscond with the flag! (Sorry …)
This “scena” was exacerbated when it was discovered that one of the student leaders of the original protest (the stompers) had brought a backpack containing a handgun onto the campus. In an eerie turn of fate, this act was also captured on video as well as a pawn shop receipt identifying the purchaser. So, an arrest warrant was issued, the stomping perpetrator has disappeared into the fabric of society, and he is now considered “armed and dangerous.”
Meanwhile, in about three hours, as many as 4,000 people are expected to ring the campus (they must stay on the surrounding sidewalks because they’re not allowed on campus), motorcyclists are supposed to ride around the campus perimeter carrying American flags. The Valdosta mayor has declared today as our very own flag day and the VSU president has declared today to be a Day of Reaffirmation. I haven’t heard whether there are anti anti-protests planned. I wonder if there will be live TV coverage? I’m almost tempted to go watch the excitement unfold – but only almost.
Instead, I’ll enjoy this beautiful day in our “Italian villa-like” back yard and think about the students I could be helping prepare for their final exams. I’ll be figuratively watching their tuition dollars circling the porcelain facility. And finally, as lots of attention focuses on our location, I’ll be contemplating whether the original protesters realize that their efforts have backfired and that the spotlight has instead been turned on flag supporters rather than detractors?
Let’s fight against racial inequality, but let’s learn how to do it rationally and successfully. Maybe through this incident, we have – after all, learning is supposed to be the primary function on campus, right?
See you next time! -Jim
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