Patriotism at the Schoolhouse Gate


By now you might have heard about five high school kids in California being sent home for wearing American flag paraphernalia on Cinco de Mayo. If not, here's a quick primer:

"They said we could wear it on any other day," Daniel Galli said, "but today is sensitive to Mexican-Americans because it's supposed to be their holiday so we were not allowed to wear it today."

The boys said the administrators called their T-shirts "incendiary" that would lead to fights on campus.

"They said if we tried to go back to class with our shirts not taken off, they said it was defiance and we would get suspended," Dominic Maciel, Galli's friend, said. […]

But to many Mexican-American students at Live Oak, this was a big deal. They say they were offended by the five boys and others for wearing American colors on a Mexican holiday.

"I think they should apologize cause it is a Mexican Heritage Day," Annicia Nunez, a Live Oak High student, said. "We don't deserve to be get disrespected like that. We wouldn't do that on Fourth of July."

If kids aren't disrespecting the Fourth of July, then the Youth of Today really have gone to the dogs.

Film critic, Tweeter extraordinnaire, and political irritant Roger Ebert comes up with an incongruent solution:

Kids who wear American Flag T-shirts on 5 May should have to share a lunchroom table with those who wear a hammer and sickle on 4 July.

Nice try, but if you think anyone flying commie colors on July 4 (or Cinco de Mayo, for that matter) would attract attention from the "incendiary"-averse, you probably haven't been to a street demonstration over the past, say, quarter century.

Meanwhile, at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Maureen Downey is colored a distinct shade of unimpressed:

[A]t the heart of the issue — five California high school students were kicked off their campus Wednesday for wearing t-shirts and bandannas emblazoned with American flags on Cinco de Mayo — is simple courtesy toward others. […]

I know that this is going to set off folks who believe that these kids are true patriots defending American values and culture, but there is a difference between patriotism as principle and patriotism as a rebuke or put-down of others.

Eugene Volokh, who knows more about the legality of this than you do, responds to the discourteous charge here and here.

I sincerely hope that the school employee who sent the kids home is fired with prejudice, and once again thank my lucky stars that I'm old enough to have attended school back when only Catholic kids wore uniforms, campuses weren't fenced (or metal detectored), and teenagers were expected to act and dress like smart-alecky jackasses, or at least heavy metal stoners. And hey, Associated Press? Morgan Hill isn't "San Francisco Bay-area," it's 70 miles away, in an agricultural area more known for garlic festivals than wacky politics.

Cinco de Mayo and Fourth of July duke it out alt-rocker style, below.