May She Ever Wave

105182105411111CDPby Neva Bodin

As quoted (in the italics) in an article at

by Eugene Volokh February 27, an American citizen can get in trouble for displaying our flag symbol: Today’s Dariano v. Morgan Hill Unified School Dist. (9th Cir. Feb. 27, 2014) upholds a California high school’s decision to forbid students from wearing American flag T-shirts on Cinco de Mayo. (See here and here for more on this case.)…

Flag of mexico JPEG
Mexican Flag

On Cinco de Mayo in 2009, a year before the events relevant to this appeal, there was an altercation on campus between a group of predominantly Caucasian students and a group of Mexican students. The groups exchanged profanities and threats. Some students hung a makeshift American flag on one of the trees on campus, and as they did, the group of Caucasian students began clapping and chanting “USA.” A group of Mexican students had been walking around with the Mexican flag, and in response to the white students’ flag-raising, one Mexican student shouted “f*** them white boys, f*** them white boys.” When Assistant Principal Miguel Rodriguez told the student to stop using profane language, the student said, “But Rodriguez, they are racist. They are being racist. F*** them white boys. Let’s f*** them up.” Rodriguez removed the student from the area….

At least one party to this appeal, student M.D., wore American flag clothing to school on Cinco de Mayo 2009. M.D. was approached by a male student who, in the words of the district court, “shoved a Mexican flag at him and said something in Spanish expressing anger at [M.D.’s] clothing.”

If you follow the links, you will get more facts and a long list of comments from people re it. The article above does not contain the whole story, only the drama, as most newspaper articles do. It provoked strong feelings in readers.

I am sorting and packing my 84 year old sister’s possessions for storage, and I have found a pamphlet titled “Our National Flag, How to display and Respect It,” put out by the United Chemical Company of Minneapolis 14, Minnesota in 1957. (I don’t know what the 14 stands for). It contains a long detailed list of how to display and use our flag. This is what led to some research on how our flag is displayed today, and to discovering the above article.

flag of americanWe are a symbolic people and have been since creation. A country’s flag is a powerful symbol. Where and how it should be displayed is important.

In country school, we took turns putting the flag up and taking it down each day. We learned to not let it touch the ground, and to fold it just right. The word “freedom” is associated with our flag.

In the ’80’s I went to a workshop led by a second generation immigrant. The man’s mother grew up in Russia. As a teen, she saw her older sister beheaded by the Bolsheviks while she hid in a hayloft. She bit through her tongue to keep from crying out. As an adult immigrant to America, she “got down on the ground and kissed the dirt when she got off the boat,” he said. And I bet if someone would have handed her the American flag, she’d have kissed that too.

In my opinion, each person should respect their flag, and each person respect another person’s flag, especially in the country it represents. And as usual, this newspaper story leaves me with still more questions. What a balancing act for a journalist to present not only the drama to hook a reader, but present enough facts to give a true picture of events.


17 thoughts on “May She Ever Wave

  1. This is a very interesting post, Neva, and raises considerable questions. I’m not sure where I stand on this issue, but Cinco de Mayo is as big a celebration in Mexico as the Fourth of July is in the United States. It seems to me that perhaps those choosing to wear the American flag that day may have been trying to make a statement, but they knew they were infringing on a very special day to the Mexican students. That being said, it would be so much better if we could co-exist and each could wear whatever they choose on whatever day they choose without fear of retribution. How would those who chose to wear or display the American flag on the Fourth of July feel if those same Hispanic students brashly came to class wearing the flag of their own country? Just asking, more food for thought. I think it is extremely important to be proud of one’s own flag. In Mexico we were allowed to fly our flags, especially on our national holidays, with no fear of reprisal, and many people flew both. It’s sad that it’s not the same in our country. Whether or not the Mexican students were here legally (but they must have been or could not have been in college) it was their day to be proud of their heritage. It sounds to me that they retaliated only after they were challenged. Again, I wish there could be harmony everywhere, but,sadly,it will never be. I enjoyed the links and read them all, but it still raises questions in my mind. I suppose everyone will have an opinion on this subject – that’s why we’re the land of the free! I am reflagging this on my website as I believe others will want to read and comment. Thanks for bringing this up!


    1. Thanks Linda for the comments. It raised a lot of feelings in me too, and I edited that post a few times trying to just present facts. I had thought I was only going to write about how to respect the flag then found that article and my direction verved off. (I hope that’s a word!)


  2. I live in the area and my understanding of events is somewhat different from what is presented in the article. We have a large Mexican-American population and many Cinco de Mayo celebrations. We also have ultra-conservative, “Impeach Obama” groups who stand outside the Post Office with pictures of the president with a Hitler mustache and hate sayings. I don’t know if the “American” boys were associated with these people, but apparently they were definitely trying to cause trouble. They knew they would get a reaction and wanted it. They also were disrespecting the flag, if you get down to it. The principle made a difficult call, but seems like a reasonable one. An American flag flies over the school and is in the classrooms (unless things have changed drastically). One day of the year, some students display the Mexican flag and a set of trouble makers try to disrupt the celebration? I don’t see it as a free speech issue, rather a hate issue.


    1. Thanks Kate. I know that every article I read can be as biased or exclusive of facts as the writer or editor make it, and always itch to know the “rest of the story.” It is so easy to lead a reader one way or another. Even political articles are almost useless unless you know the situation intimately. Yet easy to ignore that fact when hearing or reading about something. Black and white print seems so official and true!


      1. I guess I thought that might be the case and that the article had left some of that out, which is why I had said the article leaves me with many questions and hoped people could find out more by going to the links. I only quoted some of the article and had tried to keep opinion, other than we should respects each others flags, out of the article. It seems neither side wanted to do that.


  3. Those who feel less will always try to bring others down so they don’t feel so bad. Situations such as this can be difficult to deal with. You are correct Neva, report the news, but leave the editorial out. Not easy. Who knows how events such as this will be seen in the future. Doris


    1. Thanks Doris. Articles can be inciduous to strong feelings and actions, kind of like gossip, which they often are also. So many factors are usually left out. And I think freedom is often mis-directed.


  4. Great and thought provoking post. I think you’re right, that it all comes down to respect but also right about news reporters wanting to sell drama, not provide facts. Thanks for sharing this info – it is very interesting.


  5. Discipline issues come onto play too. We did respect the flag and our country, and there was no way we’d get by with that language. Parents and teachers were examples when it came to patriotism. Cher’ley


  6. I was always afraid to be the flag-raiser and “bring-her-downer” when I worked at a federal office: afraid I’d drop it to the ground or raise it up the wrong way! Interesting how our traditions and rules can make one VERY NERVOUS about doing something wrong, even if not intended. I still shudder when I think about the time I raised the flag up, didn’t check it immediately, and discovered later I had put it up the pole wrong way! Thanks for a thought-provoking post, Neva!


  7. Thoughful post, Neva. My only experience of flag raising was as a Brownie and as a Girl Guide. Flag raising was pretty important back then but I can’t say how important it is now during Guide meetings in Scotland. I think respecting the traditions of others is a great idea but there needs also to be a respect for the country in which you live- even if you are not from that country.


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