Politics and Grassroots

Kids doing stupid things

A University of California Irvine student committee continues to draw outrage – OUTRAGE! – for banning display of the American flag in a student government office.

The ban is silly, and the outrage is sillier still. Twitter users have posted names and pictures of the members of the committee. It’s overkill that only serves to endanger these students and does nothing to help them understand what’s wrong with what they did, or why people were offended. Isn’t college supposed to be about discussing and understanding other people’s views?

There are reasons these students voted the way they did. If you like the flag and think it should be displayed, wouldn’t it be worth a discussion? These students in particular may not be convinced, but understanding their thought process would help the next time you ran across someone with similar views. (Conversely, shouting them down probably doesn’t teach them that America is a welcoming mixing bowl of ideas. Rather, it enforces whatever notions they had of America being a country of ignorant patriotism on steroids.)

Either way, they aren’t doing this in a real-world environment. It’s college. It’s where you are supposed to do stupid things so you can figure out they’re stupid.

One has to wonder the same thing about the University of Oklahoma’s expelled the Sigma Alpha Epsilon cheerleaders. What have these kids learned about race relations? What have others learned about the motivations of a dozen or so men who would chant the n-word on a bus? Expulsion seems lazy, just like forcing the UC Irvine student government to re-hang their lobby flag.

In both cases, you’d like to give the people the benefit of the doubt and assume they just didn’t understand their actions. You might have a conversation with them and realize they meant everything they did; but you might learn they are legitimately contrite and eager to make amends.

After all, it’s college. Everybody’s supposed to learn something.

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