Officials at Hampshire College are hoping things calm down now that school President James Lash, with the backing of school trustees, decided to let the American flag fly again on campus after weeks of controversy. Lash had Old Glory taken down after a protester burned one in protest two days after Donald Trump’s election. The person responsible for (legally) torching the flag is an absolute disgrace. But the decision by Lash, et al. to remove the flag is an act of cowardice that is even worse.
First, Lash had the flag flown at half-staff—perhaps signifying the death of the First Amendment—then had it taken down all together. Lash will never be mistaken for a profile in courage. He tried to claim the flag was removed because to some people, it symbolized oppression and unfairness in the country. He also said he wanted to jump start “dialogue” (I hate that word) on campus.
Lash seriously miscalculated if he thought veterans would stand for this. They showed up in droves to protest. Any demonstration that took place when the flag was burned was dwarfed by the protests that occurred when a new one was taken down.
Not to be left out, tweeter-in-chief Trump had to get in on the issue with his regular nonsense. It was his enlightened view that anyone burning the flag should lose their citizenship or spend a year in the Big House. Brilliant.
Without knowing it (does he do anything any other way?), Trump gave a backhanded slap to his favorite Supreme Court Justice, the late Antonin Scalia. Scalia was in the majority when the court ruled—twice—that flag burning is protected free speech.
But it’s Lash and the trustees who are the villains here. Their spineless decision to remove the flag in the face of having it burned calls into question their judgment and leadership. Some may respond that it’s none of anyone’s business who is not a student or a parent of one. Nice try. The school receives federal money, as in, my taxes.
“The flag had become a heated symbol that was making that more difficult,” Lash told the Boston CBS affiliate. “We really feel our community needs a conversation in which both sides listen to each other, and we wish the nation would have that kind of dialogue. We felt that if we could stop arguing about the symbol, we could get to the underlying issues.” Good lord.
In the bigger picture, the controversy at Hampshire College further solidifies the belief that today’s college students are a largely entitled and coddled lot whose virgin ears and pure eyes can’t handle free speech that may be objectionable. The very fact that many colleges and universities brought in counselors, cancelled classes or even made finals optional in the wake of Trump’s election. Please. That’s the outrage.
If Lash really wanted to “start a dialogue” and was serious about open and candid debate, he’d do so with the flag flying at its highest peak. He chose the easy way out and it was gutless.