Flags don’t equal freedom

When USF students enter the university’s 310 classrooms to start a new year next fall, independent thought will take a hit from the government.

While students in Florida’s primary schools are already forced to bear reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of each day, the state’s public universities have remained immune to the government’s brainwashing — until April, when the state legislature passed a law requiring American flags be flown in all public classrooms, including those of state universities.

The Pledge is a problem in and of itself — I can’t think of anything scarier than young, impressionable children across the country rising in unison to recite propagandist chants. Now, though, with the red, white and blue scare spreading to college campuses, one must wonder how far it will go.

The Carey Baker Freedom Flag Act, which requires the 2-feet-by-3-feet flags be in place by Aug. 1, 2005, was passed by both houses of the state congress unanimously. The bill was named after a Republican state senator from Eustis who missed the 2003 legislative session to serve in Iraq.

While the state had good intentions in commemorating Baker, it crossed a line in forcing the flags into classrooms. The government of this country is not here to tell its people what to think — this is the same principal that dictates all our First Amendment rights, most notably the freedom of religion. However, by putting the flags in classrooms, the government is endorsing American patriotism.

It may seem like a given that the American government supports the American ideals that it deems worthy of enforcement, but it is both unconstitutional and incorrect to assume the same ideals are held by its citizens. There are American citizens who do not share these ideals, and they have the same right to be represented by an impartial, objective government looking out for their best interests that everyone else enjoys. Last I checked, the Constitution said nothing about having to love America to live here or enjoy the privileges that come with it. In fact, the Constitution seems to go out of its way to protect these people. However, now they are being singled out.

The flags themselves are not the threat to American freedom; the clear and present danger is that the government has an opinion. Disagreeing with your government should not be a crime; it should be an impossibility. How can you disagree with a body that is not supposed to have an opinion?

More distressing than that, however, is that this is only the first step. Today, college students are being told they have to look at the American flag. Can forced salutes be far behind? The argument that students are not forced to look at or otherwise acknowledge the flag holds no water because, like with the Pledge of Allegiance, students are still being told they must think one thing or disagree with their country.

Students would also not be forced to participate in prayers, were they to be recited before each school day. This does not mean it is legally permissible to introduce state-endorsed religion, however. Students today have every right to privately pray anywhere they choose, be it in a classroom or in a tree. Why should flag-waving be any different? If I want to stick American flags all over my schoolbooks and car, I’ll do it. I draw the line at my government forcing me to do it.

What’s worse still is the materialistic idea that this new law promotes. Waving a flag and reciting a pledge do not make people patriots; it makes them mindless. Want to show your love for the country? Exercise your right to free speech. Be involved in the political process. But don’t let your government tell you what you should think is right and wrong.

The with-us-or-against-us mentality that has taken this country over in the three years since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is beyond scary. Many people are incapable of looking objectively to see the irony in the government telling its citizenry just in what shape or form they should express pride of the country that encourages independent, free thought.

Adam Becker is a sophomore majoring in mass communications and is the Editor in Chief at The Oracle. oracleadam@yahoo.com