In wake of Gail Grobey's temporary removal of the American flag from her classroom, I would like to elucidate some finer points.
As a student of Newberg High School, I am aware that the ban on "displays" passed by the Newberg school board aims to get political symbols out of the classroom. The rhetoric of the four school board members and their supporters maintain that it is almost exclusively the displays and advocacy for BLM and Pride, which have such a disastrous effect upon the school environment.
It is certain that these topics are controversial, yet it is also true that the American flag is not a uniform symbol, especially not of late. The American flag has been displayed by certain groups with alarming intentions such as the fascist Proud Boys and those who stormed the United States capitol on Jan. 6, yet the worst that can be fairly levelled against the BLM flag is that it has been used by groups who have caused damage to city blocks, while still demanding racial justice.
Obviously, the American flag stands for much more than reactionary nativism and is meant to unite us, but when it begins to be co-opted to stand for insidious political aims, it loses its uniform semiotic meaning. As the four board members continuously remind us, the same applies for the BLM flag.
Many of those who support the actions by those board members have told me they believe that the "idea" of BLM is a good one but cannot stand by the rioting a small portion of its members have carried out. By banning its display, however, the board members' actions suggest that they consider the BLM and Pride movement to be morally equivalent to groups whose symbols have already been banned because they do represent something truly terrible, such as the Confederate Battle Flag and worse.If schools are to follow the board's directive, which aims to eliminate controversial displays, the American flag would have to be banned as well. The flag represents the values of freedom and the sacrifices that were made for it, just as BLM stands for racial equality. The American flag has the unique status of a flag the citizens of the world's most powerful nation rally around, but also has been used as a symbol to validate actions that would be unthinkable a decade ago.
Compared to the BLM flag this duality of symbolic meaning makes the American flag an absolute that cannot be refuted, but also a symbol, as Ms. Grobey has recognized, which stands for "menace and intolerance."
Of course, many have been angered by her removal of it because they only see the American Flag as a clearly defined symbol, which is understandable. If nothing else, I hope that the temporary removal of the flag makes people aware that any attempt to restrain controversial topics in schools is not done by people with intentions to eliminate bias, but only those who want to silence those who support the Pride Movement and BLM.
It is a manifestly political overreach by the school board and Ms. Grobey was daring enough to show that if their policy was fairly carried out, it would exclude symbols that all students identify with, rendering the symbolic landscape of Newberg schools an austere husk.
Timothy Delventhal lives in rural Newberg
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