Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Patriotism Is Not a Crime

By Chris Slavens - Originally posted at

Cinco de Mayo is a minor holiday in Mexico, first marketed to Americans by Corona (yes, the beer company) in the 1980s for the express purpose of selling, well, beer. That it has been turned into a celebration of Mexican heritage is bizarre, and indicative of ignorance on the part of those who take it seriously. So why were five California students sent home from school on May 5 after showing up wearing American flag t-shirts?

One of the students (who happens to be half-Hispanic) claims that Assistant Principal Miguel Rodriguez called the shirts “incendiary.” Yet, on the next day, about 200 Hispanic students staged an illegal walk-out in the Morgan Hill Unified School District, shouting “Sí se puede” (which translates to “yes, it is possible” or “yes, we can”) and disrupting traffic. They were not disciplined by the school district, which begs the question, was Rodriguez’s decision to send the American-flag wearing students home racially motivated?

The First Amendment recognizes the God-given (or natural) right to free speech, which includes symbolic speech, or expression, a fact supported by numerous court decisions over the years. It applies, without exception, whether one is in a private residence, religious building, city park, or public school.

The administrators’ decision to punish students for expressing their patriotism on a Mexican drinking holiday is beyond absurd — it is flagrantly unconstitutional.

Students are free to wear what they choose to school; whether a shirt depicts an American flag, a Mexican flag, an anti-war slogan, or the face of Hitler, it is neither the duty nor the right of a school administrator to decide that certain expressions are permissible, while others are not.

And, no public official has the right to punish a citizen for wearing or displaying the American flag in the United States of America. Ever.

Fortunately, the school district seems to have gotten the message from outraged parents and patriots across the nation, and is responding correctly. Superintendent Wesley Smith wrote, in a statement released shortly after the incident occurred, that “students should not, and will not, be disciplined for wearing patriotic clothing. This matter is under investigation and appropriate action will be taken.” Some parents have called for the administrators in question to be fired.

Do Hispanic students have the right to display pride in their country of origin? Of course. The First Amendment does not choose sides; it protects all Americans equally. They have the right to do this, not only on May 5, but any other day of the year.

Yet, in this nation, America comes first. E pluribus unum. Out of many, one. Our many ethnic backgrounds take second place to our pride in being, simply, Americans.

While Cinco de Mayo is an unofficial holiday enjoyed by many Americans, its hijacking by racist Mexican groups like La Raza—the members of which dare to be offended by the precious flag of the nation in which they live—shows that there are some who, even in the land of opportunity, enjoy stirring up trouble without the slightest provocation.

Five patriots wore American flag t-shirts to school. Two hundred anti-patriots walked out of school and marched on the streets. Which group’s expression was more “incendiary?”

Chris Slavens, former contributor to the Wilmington News Journal, is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer for Americans for Limited Government.

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