The recent decision to remove the American flag from the Associated Students main lobby is tragic and misguided.
It is alarming that such a resolution could be passed based on such thin backing as the (unsupported) perception that there is a global disdain for the flag of the United States.
While it is true that some of the actions of this country have at times been viewed with negativity, none of that changes what the flag stands for: freedom and opportunity. As far as I know, President Obama still keeps the flag waving over the White House. Or do you think he stuffs it into a drawer first before inviting foreign leaders into the Oval Office?
My dad came to the United States in 1967 with little more than the clothes on his back. This country gave him a scholarship, an education, a family, and the opportunity to make a life for himself – privileges that were robbed of him in his own home country when the communist Chinese regime took everything, executing family members, stripping them of their business, and leaving the survivors penniless. America offered him citizenship, thrust the sledgehammer of industry into his hands, and told him, “give it your best shot.” And he did.
The United States, for all its shortcomings, is still one of the most hospitable nations in the world. It freely invites students from all over the globe to learn at its best universities, and welcomes millions of immigrants each year, from every socioeconomic class, to come pursue their dreams of a better life. How many other countries can claim that?
The international students at UCI who are supposedly offended by the American flag are here because they want to be; they regard our educational system with respect and see the value in the ideals of the United States. All this is afforded them through the generosity of the American government and its people – and we are absolutely better for it. You can be certain that these students realize what an incredible opportunity they have been given, to be part of a process that is so integral to making this nation so successful. The flag is our way of saying, “Welcome to the United States.” You should be proud to stand behind those stripes.
My dad, while acknowledging China’s crimes, has never been ashamed of its flag because he knows that it stands for something greater – its culture and heritage, the strength of its people, and the hope that they can always become a better nation. He feels the same way about the United States, only more so. “All that pot-smoking must have damaged their brains,” he says (of you). “If they take down the flag, I’ll put it back up myself.” Well, there you have it.
There may come a day when the American flag causes us embarrassment and shame. But good lord, that hasn’t happened yet. It’s still OK to be proud to be American.
The Paul Merage School of Business, UC Irvine