Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Those Were the Days

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

These are ranks of Albuquerque Police, State Police and New Mexico National Guardsmen lined up against Vietnam War protestors in front of the Student Union Building on the University of New Mexico campus, Fri., May 8, 1970.

There was a discussion last week about alleged abuses at an anti-war rally at the Truman Gate to Kirtland Air Force Base on Sat., Sept. 15. APD officers are accused of being drawn into political debates, engaging in taunts and expressing personal political statements. Further, they possibly cited legally parked vehicles of protestors based on anti-war bumper stickers, while not citing adjacent vehicle without such bumper stickers.

There was also an incident in front of UNM’s administration building, Scholes Hall, on Mon., Sept. 17. A student has been accused of lowering then destroying a Mexican flag that had been raised as part of an on-campus celebration of Mexican Independence day on Sunday, which was apparently left up inadvertently. The 30-year old student has been issued a criminal summons for tearing the flag apart and presenting it to the Air Force ROTC office on campus.

The incident drew a protest from the student community and several makeshift Mexican flags were posted on campus information kiosks.

If you think this is bad, let me tell you of the days….

At Kent State University, Ohio, four students were shot and killed and nine others wounded by Ohio National Guard troops on May 4, 1970, during a student anti-war protest against the Cambodian incursion by U.S. troops.

At UNM, there were fistfights over lowering the American flag to half-staff in honor of the slain Kent State students. Violence broke out between strikers and other students who were referred to as "Jocks," in press reports of the day, because the flagpole was located in front of Johnson Gym.

UNM students took over the SUB and classes were suspended. For several days there were rallies held under the battleship U.S.S. New Mexico's bell, on the campus mall. There was at least one protest march to the Federal courthouse downtown.

Troops were sent in by Lt. Gov. E. Lee Francis, seen above, presiding over the opening of the 1970 legislative session, because Gov. David Cargo was not in the state. A large group of protestors, estimated at about 2,000, had gathered outside the SUB. About 150 of them entered the building and were later arrested. Cargo later told me that it was something he would not have done.

Francis also sent the Guard into Northern New Mexico after the Alianza Federal de Mercedes’ armed raid, led by land grant activist Reies Lopez Tijerina, on the Rio Arriba County Courthouse in Tierra Amarilla. State Police Officer Nick Saiz and County Jailer Eulogio Salazar were shot during the attempt by raiders to free several members of the Alianza who had just been released on bail from an earlier arrest. Tijerina’s group was also trying to serve a “citizen’s arrest warrant” on then District Attorney Alfonso Sanchez. Cargo said he would have handled that matter differently also, if he had been in the state. However, that’s another story.

National guard troops stabbed several people including KOB TV news cameraman Bill Norlander, who was seriously wounded when a bayonet strike missed his aorta by about a quarter inch.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

UNM Army ROTC’s Capt. Donald Martinez, left, Head Professor of Military Science Lt. Col. Erik Sevigny, seen here center with UNM Air Force Studies Lt. Col. Curtis Johanson, right, speak with Senior Communications Representative Carolyn Gonzales, far right, after the re-raising of the Mexican flag on Thursday. It was held in an effort to make amends for the destruction of the flag left flying earlier. Lobo Battalion Commander Sevigny explained, in an opinion piece published in Friday’s Daily Lobo, the UNM campus newspaper, how the Mexican flag was allowed to remain flying when the ROTC flag detail failed to lower the foreign flag. He took responsibility for the situation that led to the incident.

Several local bloggers seem to want a piece of these events. I may as well throw in my two cents.

Blogs that take on the flag incident attached portions of the flag code and rightly point out that it is not law. However, none precisely got the details of the code correctly.

“U. S. Code: Title 4, Chapter 1 – The Flag

…Sec. 6. –Time and occasions for display

(a) It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness…

…Sec. 7. - Position and manner of display
…(g) When flags of two or more nations are displayed, they are to be flown from separate staffs of the same height. The flags should be of approximately equal size. International usage forbids the display of the flag of one nation above that of another nation in time of peace.”

As in this picture, taken during my 24-day road trip this summer, at the east entrance of Glacier National Park, Saint Mary, Mont., on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, this display is out of order and the flags should all be of the same dimensions. The flags here are seen from left: United States, Montana state, Canadian and Blackfeet Indian Tribal flag. Blackfeet’s flag, being a sovereign nation, should swap places with the state flag.

“…Sec. 8. - Respect for flag
No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America; the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing. Regimental colors, State flags, and organization or institutional flags are to be dipped as a mark of honor.

…(d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white, and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker's desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in general.

…(j) No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.”

Over at Mario Burgos, one commenter, Hunter, offers up a state flag code that he purports to be from, “Title 6, NMAC GOVERNING THE UNITED STATES FLAG AND PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE.” Only one problem, that’s not what the law of New Mexico reads. First, there is no title 6; the state annotations are by article, then section. However, under state law regarding school flags: “22-2-9. United States [and New Mexico] flag[s]; display regulations.

The flag of the United States and the flag of the State of New Mexico shall be displayed in each classroom and on or within all public school buildings of this state according to the regulations adopted by the state board [department].”

I’m not trying to beat up on Burgos, he posted before he might have learned that the Army took responsibility and he is not in control of the comments submitted to his site.

UNM Police Lt. James Madrid, left, and Commander Debbie Kuidis, center, along with Veteran David Ethridge and associates, watch the proceedings from afar.

Ethridge, and the woman with him, also wearing the flag, are in violation of the code. I’m sure that there will be those who will argue that they are not, however, because it is not a law, it just shows bad form and ignorance in spite of the best of patriotic intentions. The highest profile offender of this particular section was our President’s mother, Barbara Bush.

For those who have read me over the years, you know I love the flag. Not the way patriotic flag wavers do. I respect it and call for its dignified treatment. I love it because it represents a country that is big enough and secure enough to engage in self-criticism. I agree with the Supreme Court when they have prohibited making desecration of the symbol a crime.

Desecration has religious overtones and therefore those who hold differing views may be barred from expressing themselves. In one of the two cases to come out of the Supreme Court, a justice had suggested several alternative charges that fit and did not violate free speech, including, theft, destruction of someone else’s property and arson.

I went to grab something to eat and had in mind a location where I knew there were tattered flags displayed. To my surprise, I found new flags, but that doesn’t get them off the hook. On my little three-mile loop, I encountered nine flag displays. Each was in technical violation of the flag code. I doubt any of the sites would be recognized for their error, nor would they sadden a patriotic heart. The errors included: use as advertising, sizes, improper sequencing with the state flag and failure to light a flag that is not lowered at dusk.

The case at hand is a simple one and is being properly handled. The Mexican flag was left to improperly fly. Yet the student’s response was based on a misinterpretation and showed no respect for a friendly nation. Removing the flag and forwarding it to an appropriate party, be it one of the ROTC units’ flag details, the UNM president’s office or campus police, with an admonition, as to why it should not have been left flying, would have been responsible.

The Eye on Albuquerque blog wants to cast blame and considers the possible criminal actions, as not only understandable, but “justifiable.” It’s not about blame; those ROTC students and our future “heroes” on the flag detail learned a lesson. I’m pretty sure the critics have not.

According to a comment left on the Eye a couple of days ago and featured by them, a person claiming to be the remover of the flag wrote their own explanation. I normally don’t try to get into the middle of criminal charges, preferring to allow the justice system to play out. However, the writer does not take responsibility for the tearing of the flag as alleged and makes the same error of confusing the flag code with federal law. He posted a secondary comment on the Eye claiming to be who he said he was.

On that Monday, Sept. 17, I was trudging my way to school at about 11:45 a.m. when I saw an Air Force officer in his “zoom suit” flight uniform, walking into the Air Force ROTC Aerospace studies building, at the corner of Yale Boulevard and Las Lomas N.E. There was a man moving quickly towards the corner yelling, “Colonel, excuse me sir!” When he got no response the man picked up his pace passing me. He seemed quite agitated and in an emotional state. He had nothing in his hands. Moments later, about the time it took to walk three quarters of a block, he passed me going the other way. It struck me as odd.

After this most recent comment, I checked out the poster’s “My Space” site and found the picture of the man who passed me. So that raises another question. In his explanation, the accused wrote he approached the Army ROTC, while the UNM Police reported that he returned the torn flag to the Air Force ROTC detachment, prompting the criminal charge.

Even though I might have lowered the flag, its destruction is uncalled for and unnecessary. He’s not being called out for lowering the flag, but for destroying it.

Yet this issue falls so nicely into the realm of the hate mongers. It disgraces what the American flag stands for. In our country, it’s first, but we are not alone in this world and there are many students from other lands attending our university. Our culture is one of diversity. There is plenty of room for the recognition of the backgrounds of those who join us in our land whether they are visitors or new citizens. Allowing them to honor their background does not attack ours. If we stripped away all that is foreign for just what is the product of our geographic boundaries, we’d live a pretty mundane life.

I offer a posting by former Albuquerquean Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez who makes good points for a multi-cultural existence.

As for the protestors, I guess that both groups should be glad that we’ve come a long way from the spring of 1970, when you might have gotten shot, stabbed or beaten up for protesting.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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