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A Rant
Author: TriSec    Date: 11/29/2016 03:00:44

Good Morning.

We interrupt today's scheduled "Ask a Vet" for a local news rant.

Perhaps you've heard recently that a liberal-arts college in Western Mass has decided to stop flying the American flag on campus?

AMHERST (CBS) — It’s been a week of flag-related controversy for Hampshire College, after the school’s Board of Trustees made the decision to lower the U.S. flag on campus to half-staff in the wake of the presidential election–and then decided to remove the flag entirely after a wave of backlash.

Hampshire College President Jonathan Lash told WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Ben Parker he knows it’s a controversial decision to remove the flag, but he wanted to create a dialogue among those with differing opinions about the symbol.

“There were a range of views on campus, including people whose experience growing up have made the flag a symbol of fear, which was strengthened by the toxic language during the campaign, and people for whom the flag is the symbol of all that’s best throughout the country,” said Lash.

He said the trouble started with a gesture meant to help provoke “meaningful and respectful dialogue” on campus–a stance he outlined in a post on the college’s Facebook page. In that post, he said the Board of Trustees decided to fly the flag at half-staff due to the “environment of escalating hate-based violence” in the wake of the election.

Lash said the gesture was also meant to be an “expression of grief” over deaths around the world, including those of U.S. service members.

But, the move didn’t work as planned and many–especially veterans and families of veterans in the Hampshire College family–saw it as being disrespectful of the tradition of expressing mourning on a national level.

“Frankly, doing that, it didn’t help,” he said. “Flying the flag at half-mast just created more controversy.”

On Veterans Day, someone removed the flag and burned it.

“In the middle of the night, we have no idea who did it or even why,” said Lash.

So that’s why they decided to take down the U.S. flag–and all flags–on campus.

“The flag had become a heated symbol that was making that more difficult,” Lash said. “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.”

Of course, that decision has created even more backlash, and Lash said there “certainly is” a lot of anger about the decision.

Predictably, of course, conservative groups and veterans lined up to protest, and there was an action at the college this past weekend that attracted a large media presence.

An estimated 300 veterans, families, and protestors gathered by the Hampshire College entrance on West St. this past Sunday to protest the college’s decision to stop flying the American flag on campus.

On Nov. 18, the president of Hampshire College, Jonathan Lash, made a statement to the community explaining that Hampshire College first made the decision a couple weeks ago to fly the flag at half-staff to allow the campus community to express “grief over the violent deaths being suffered in this country and globally” and to also facilitate more diverse dialogue about the flag as a symbol.

Then, on the Veteran’s Day following the presidential election, a student took down and burned one of the flags on campus. This incident, along with some of the campus communities’ discontent and hurt over the flag being raised at half-staff, called for the president to decide not to fly any flags on campus for now.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 754 organized this peaceful rally in response to protest the college’s decision.

“Regardless of what happens, the flag deserves some respect,” said Shutesbury resident Greg Steve, who attended the event with his daughter and wife, carrying three military burial flags of their family members.

The event started at 1 p.m. and continued on until about 2:30 p.m. The rally was centered around a stage setup across from the Hampshire College entrance sign, but spilled across the street. Speakers took turns sharing anecdotes and poetry of war and grief, accompanied by repeated cries to raise the flag.

Many of the protestors were veterans and family members who served or had family members serve in the military.

Speakers at the event included Northwestern District Attorney Dave Sullivan, State Commander of the VFW Massachusetts Brian Martin, retired Sergeant Micah Welintukonis, Massachusetts State Representative John Velis of the 4th Hampden district, Springfield City Councilor at Large Kateri Walsh, and Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno.

The crowd chanted slogans such as “raise our flag” and “God bless America” as they waved their flags around in unison.

The rally was civil except for a Donald Trump supporter that was led off site, and a Hampshire college student who responded to the protest by making obscene gestures when the protesters attempted to take a group picture.

Sarno joined the protest in order to make people aware of “the veterans and the ultimate sacrifice of our veterans and what this flag stands for [and] that [Americans] can still continue discussion here, but the opportunities that [Americans] have is because of what our veterans have done.”

Now, we can argue about protests, and "liberal" colleges, and the First Amendment all day. Of course I will post this blog and defend everyone's rights to protest. Part of protesting is often to shock, and perhaps the college tried to do that by removing the flag.

But buried in both of those stories was the real reason they took it down.

AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – The President of Hampshire College is apologizing for his students Saturday night after someone burned the American flag in the center of campus. Hampshire College in Amherst is known for their civil disobedience. A flag burning incident on Veterans Day has the campus President admitting it was disrespectful.

Johnathan Lash, President, Hampshire College said, “I really regret that.”

However, some students don’t.

Garrison Greenleaf, Hampshire College Student told 22News, “I think if you don’t respect the symbol then go for it. I personally don’t respect the symbol.”

On the Wednesday following the election the campus sadness was palpable on a walking path chalk art of a broken heart with a band aid and the words, “we’ll be okay.” College administration agreed to recognize student sadness by lowering the flag to half-staff.

And the campus takes down that flag every night for fear that someone may try and burn it again. Something that the college president says he regrets.

Johnathan Lash, “I think that most of the students on campus regret it.

Most students didn’t want to talk to 22News. The flag was burned on Veterans Day.

Lash said, “We have many veterans on campus. It was a symbolic act that genuinely hurt them. We have no idea who did it.”

It was also reported locally that after the flag was burned, on two other occasions the half-masted flag was also "removed" and "vandalized" without specifying what the violation was.

You want to know something? If I was flying a flag, and it was removed and burned once, and then two replacements were essentially stolen...I'D STOP FLYING IT TOO.

But you can't tell the knuckle-dragging flagwavers that - all that matters is some LIBRUL college in MASSACHUSETTS is disrespecting us. So everybody lines up to protest and report on that - so why aren't the veterans protesting the actions of the students that burned it in the first place? I guess a second-rate footballer can get castigated for kneeling during the anthem. (wrong action, IMHO - see here) but college kids burning flags is OK now as long as we protest the college for taking it down?

17 comments (Latest Comment: 11/29/2016 19:31:01 by Scoopster)
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