By Helena Rodriguez: Freedom New Mexico
I’ve heard both sides of the Confederate flag debate, once as a student participating in an online intercultural communication class discussion, and last summer, as an instructor teaching an Upward Bound class in multicultural history.
In both debates, the overwhelming consensus was the Confederate flag is more divisive and is more commonly associated with past racism and slavery than it is, as some supporters of the flag say, a symbol of Southern pride or even as a pop symbol of rebellion. This flag has more negative than positive connotations. Because of this, several state governments in the south have removed the Confederate flag from their state capitols.
That was a good decision on the part of these states, but I still realize we live in a free country and I recognize people have the freedom to display a Confederate flag if they choose. I don’t like it, of course, but does that give me the right to rip off a license plate or Confederate flag displayed on someone’s private property? That would be a criminal act.
This brings me to an even more controversial flap over flags. The Mexican flag. It’s become a symbol of heated debate due to the political climate over out-of-control illegal immigration. I would also argue this is due, in part, to Census reports released in 2003, which announced that Hispanics (and we’re talking U.S. citizens or those here legally), are now the largest U.S. minority. It’s all about fear on the part of some.
There have been two recent flaps in the news over the Mexican flag. Due to the political climate, but also due to extenuating circumstances, these are not quite the same as the Confederate flag controversy. In both incidents, one in Reno, Nev., and the other at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, Mexican flags were flown either above the U.S. flag or alone.
In the Reno situation, this was done by the personal choice of a private business owner. In the UNM case, there was miscommunication.
These were not wise decisions to fly these Mexican flags in such manners, given our political climate. No laws were broken though, and yet in both cases, individuals took matters into their own hands and illegally destroyed someone else’s property. That’s a crime!
In the Reno incident, a U.S. veteran, Jim Broussard, ripped down a Mexican flag flying solo, above a privately owned bar. He claimed it was illegal to fly it alone. However, Reno police said in a statement that, “While the U.S. code establishes protocol for the display of the American flag in relation to other flags, the protocol is ‘advisory’ and is not a criminal statute.”
Perhaps it should be a crime, but as of right now, it isn’t. In fact, our supreme law of the land still permits the burning of the U.S. flag. I don’t like it, but it is a right. It’s also a freedom we have to display other flags if we choose, and the irony is that the veteran in Reno fought in war for the other man’s right to display a Mexican flag.
With the UNM incident, it was supposedly miscommunication. ROTC members took down a U.S. flag, but left a Mexican flag up because they thought students would take it down the next day. When they didn’t, a UNM student took matters into his own hands and ripped it down. That’s vandalism.
In both incidents, people were offended by the Mexican flag being given prominence over the U.S. flag, which I understand. My fear, however, and I won’t be surprised if this is already happening, is that people will frown upon any flag being flown next to or below our U.S. flag. The Mexican flag is a big part of our nation’s history and it is flown at prominent places such as Six Flags Over Texas and our Governor’s Palace in Santa Fe.
Maybe there should be a law to protect our U.S. flag and give it prominence, but with any new law comes the taking away of certain freedoms. I’d hate to see all the flags from other countries removed from the United Nations building in New York.