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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

The Gold Standard: These colors don’t run

Published: January 25, 2008
Section: Opinions

Last fall, I was pleasantly surprised to see an American flag draped across a third-story window in Ziv 130. Under the banner, a sign bearing that once ubiquitous slogan: “These Colors Don’t Run.”

This flag became the heart of a minor drama last fall, as administrators ordered the item removed, alleging certain violations of Rights and Responsibilities. This had merit; since the flag blocked a window, it represented a fire hazard.

The displayers of the Stars and Stripes correctly argued that they were implementing a service that the university had failed to fulfill. Namely, the display of the American colors. The flagpole at the front gate waves flies the colors, alongside the Brandeis banner; and that proud pennant is also prominently hung in Gosman gym. Otherwise, the U.S. standard is scarce on campus. When flags of the world are displayed in Shapiro Campus Center, at Pachanga, Culture X, and elsewhere, that of the United States is often conspicuously absent.

The Student Senate, on the evening of January 20, considered resolution SR 1-S08, otherwise known as the “Resolution in Support of Patriotic Displays.” This resolution acknowledged that the Ziv 130 flag was unauthorized, but expressed general support for displaying the flag and other patriotic symbols. With the resolution, its sponsor, Ziv Quad senator Justin Sulsky ’09, submitted a separate suggestion that the Senate consider the purchase of a flagpole and flag, to be exhibited at an alternate location.

With the minor rules issue thus addressed, a much uglier objection emerged; and not from administrators, but from our own student representatives. According to multiple Union officials East Quad senator Tamar Ariel ’10, harangued at length against the American colors, alleging that they could be “offensive” to some, especially international students. In reply, a pro-resolution senator, former Union presidential candidate Andrew Brooks ’09, quipped that international students had, after all, chosen to study in this nation rather than in Saudi Arabia.

Among the last speakers was Class of 2009 Senator Yuki Hasegawa; an international student whose homeland, as it happens, was one of the Axis aggressors of the Second World War. Union sources report that his voice welled with emotion as he asserted that he could not express any pride or allegiance to the flag of the nation that, sixty years before, had bombed his own country.

It is surprising, in this writer’s opinion, that he did not express any concern with the morality of his own people in their conquest and enslavement of half of Asia. Nor did he address their sneak attack upon the American homeland that, in the words of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, “awoke a sleeping giant” and earned the retaliation to which he objected so passionately.

At the last the resolution garnered only Brooks’ and Sulsky’s two positive votes. Two abstained, including Class of 2008 Senator Asher Tanenbaum, who suggested that he supported the general idea, but objected to unspecified language in the document. The rest of the chamber was unanimous in its opposition.

So Brandeis remains a campus that includes, among the ensigns it displays, the emblems of a Zimbabwe being starved by its government and a Sudan which is in the midst of perpetrating a genocide. These United States of America which Abraham Lincoln once termed “the last, best hope of Earth” are considered too offensive to join this apparently superior (or at least comfortably distant) company, in the eyes of our elected student representation.

Do we at Brandeis feel shame to belong to the nation that defeated the Southern slaveocracy, the Kaiser, the Nazi holocaust, militarist Japan, and the Soviet empire? Is it so scandalous to express support for this realm without whose staunch support democracies like Israel, South Korea, and Taiwan would even today face annihilation?

For those of us who are American, your grandparents called this place a “Blessed Land”, a “Golden Country”. For those of us who are visitors from abroad; the odds are that your birthplace owes its freedom and sovereignty to ours. And for those of us who are Jewish – without this country, you would be dead.