11 August 2009

The Flag Question Answered

This was a can of worms. I will attempt to pack the slimy things back in and seal it up nicely without getting any slime on me. Many good points were made. Isn’t open debate wonderful?

First, my assessment of the situation.

There is undeniably a lot of antipathy in the United States towards Mexican immigrants. No need to open a new can of worms with a lengthy explanation. But Canadians aren’t immigrating by the hundreds of thousands, and even if they were, it wouldn’t be very apparent, given their language, customs, and complexion.

Having said that, I personally love the contributions of Mexican culture to our own. I just enjoyed a scrumptious meal of: one beef enchilada, one taco, and some strange potato dish that claimed to be part of the Mexican fare. That meal-—a refreshing change at the Camp Bondsteel D-FAC—-would have been unlikely but for the Mexican influence in the United States.

Alright, first is the point oft-made that Army Soldiers should pay homage to one flag. Agreed. But flying another doesn’t have to take away from the fidelity rendered to Old Glory, does it? The real issue behind some of the comments is that of sameness.

Army leaders—-leaders of any organization, for that matter, but especially Army types—-can’t stand individuality. They want to look over their dominions and say, “what a nice, tidy, uniform bunch of people I have.”

Anytime a leader makes a general rule to address a specific situation, he is overreaching and overreacting.

Better the attitude, I think, to (pardon the bumper sticker phrase) “celebrate diversity.” A leader should be saying, “Look here, I have 1500 troops that represent dozens of cultures, religions, language preferences, and sports teams, and we are all in unity as to the mission.

“Unity of Effort,” is, in fact, one of KFOR’s mottoes. Not “Unity of Thought” or “Unity of Appearance.”

Some in the Army can’t get past their fetish for conformity in appearance. The uniform is one thing, but there are many who can’t stand anything that deviates from their preferences or point of view.

So the Soldier who wants the Mexican flag taken down may be the most patriotic person in the force, and he may have friends who have died in combat, and he may send his grandmother flowers every week. But he’s the same guy who wants me trim back my bushes because they’re unsightly, or wants me to wash my car more often because it makes the neighborhood look trashy, or wants me to wear a tie to church because he doesn’t want others to get the impression that we all, God forbid, think differently.

Flying a flag of your choice doesn’t impede the mission.

Let’s not confuse tacky with right. It may be tacky to fly a Mexican flag. Hell, I live in downtown Oakland—not exactly the most military-friendly locale in the state—and fly an Army flag from my front porch. Most of my neighbors, and the radicals who pass by my busy street daily, think that’s tacky. Let ‘em.

I think Army leaders would be more comfortable if Mexican flags weren’t flown, and they wouldn’t have to worry about it. It’s reminiscent of a dialogue from the should-be classic The Breakup.

Vince Vaugn’s character: “Do you want me to do the dishes?”

Jennifer Anistons’ character: “I want you to want to do the dishes.”

Instead of trying to enforce a cult-like fanaticism of their preference for “Unity of Appearance,” they should spend a little time instilling the values that lead one to want to fly the American Flag. Then they can worry about regulating its size, fabric, etc.

So here’s a recap:

 Should a U.S. Soldier be allowed to fly a Mexican flag from his porch on a forward military base? YES
 What if the flag was Canadian or British? YES and YES
 Should the command craft a policy letter prohibiting offending flags? NO
 How would you deem which flags are prohibited, given the fact that the forward base is home to seven NATO nations? WHATEVER IS IN EXISTING MILITARY CODE: HATE GROUPS ETC., WOULD BE BANNED
 Would state flags be subject to the same regulations? What about athletic team flags? EVERYTHING GOES, EXCEPT FOR THE LAKERS AND YANKEES


  1. Again, in the military, there should be one flag for all. In the civilian world, individual flags can be flown - a different one each day.


    Given your thought on the subject, who gets to decide who falls into the "Hate Groups"? Don't members of Hate Groups have equal rights as individuals who wish to fly their Mexican, Canadian, or British flags on a forward base (some may say that members of hate groups aren't part of the military --- I'd say prove it).

    I still stand very firm about the uniformity expectation in the military. As minute as flying a different flag, other than the US flag, may be I still feel it sets precedent (opens up a can of worms) for mishaps down the line.

  2. Amen and all hail to Queen Esther! Now you two kiss and make up. :)

  3. We can kiss and disagree.

    Hate groups is already defined by military code. Glad I don't have to be the abiter on that one.

    I don't necessarily like it, but I don't want someone else deciding what is offensive for me. It's not like someone wants to drive around in their tank or humvee flying a Mexican flag. It's just on their porch.

  4. Ahhh...there is no I in team, babe. The Military is the one place where the notion of self is a representation of many.

    The Olympics is the other place I could think of right now.

    Let’s say I'm representing the U.S. in Track and Field, would it be wise to fly the Nigerian flag at the finish line? Wait, it gets even better - I've just broken the world record for the fastest woman EVER to win the 100 meter; surpassing even Usain Bolt’s 2009 world record?!

    Heck, I'm very proud to be Nigerian, but would it make sense to hold my flag in this case?

    P.S. We can kiss and disagree, anytime! That’s the beauty of it. :)

  5. Liked the post and want to add some fuel to the flame. There is "me" in team and remember when Marion Jones won (tainted, but still), she carried an American and Belizean flag to honor her mother. I like the “Unity of Effort,” not “Unity of Thought” or “Unity of Appearance” point, but I see Esther's point in a military context. To cite another quote, "unless you're confused, you don't really know what's going on." Mexican flag may be more acceptable, but what if I also want to fly an Iranian flag because I love my culture and ancestry, not the current govt? Personally, a battle I wouldn't choose, but love the debate!

  6. Very good points. There's a lot of murkiness there, to be sure. I do think that there are come clear lines, though.

    First of all, Mexico and Belize are strong allies. Other countries, such as Iran and Venezuela, are not.

    Also, displaying a flag on the medals podium and outside one's living area are very different.

    A point I made in the answer to the question was that something might be tacky and rude, but it doesn't mean it should be illegal. Like burning the American flag, when the Supreme Court ruled that it was protected speech, might knee-jerk reaction was to ban it. On more reflection, though, we need to protect certain rights, even if they make us unconfortable.

    Where to draw the exact line, I don't know.