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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    New flag measure an antidote to apathy

    Justyn Dillingham columnist
    Justyn Dillingham
    columnist

    The first day of school was a scorcher – one of those days that reminds you you’re living in Tucson. For all the students diligently plodding across campus, though, we might as well be in the Sahara. (Why isn’t there a store in this town that sells camels?)

    When I walked into my first class and plopped into a chair, I was so addled by the heat that I spent a few minutes listening to the professor before I noticed what was behind her. It was an enormous American flag, hovering over a big square copy of the Constitution. It could have been dripping blood and it wouldn’t have been any less conspicuous.

    How odd, I thought to myself. Then, being easily distracted by a teacher’s mellifluous drone, I instantly forgot about it.

    Then came the next class. And the next one. And it dawned on me with a sudden jolt: Every class is now required to have a flag and a copy of the Constitution!

    Sure, I remember the story; it just hadn’t sunk in for me until I spotted those flags. For those of you new to Arizona, this story got rolling sometime last year. An enterprising student had nudged a bill proposing the flag measure into the state senate, and who was going to say no to that? No one who wanted to get re-elected, that’s for sure.

    The bill passed this year, and went into effect July 1. Every public school classroom in Arizona has to have a flag in plain sight, at its own expense. According to The Arizona Republic, it cost the UA about $5,500 to put all the flags and Constitutions in place.

    Don’t get me wrong; I’m as patriotic as the next fellow. I even know all the words to “”Battle Hymn of the Republic.”” But I feel a smidge uncomfortable when I see a flag somewhere in which it feels slightly out of place. I’ve felt this way ever since I was old enough to wonder why third-graders have to recite the “”Pledge of Allegiance”” and salute the flag in between taking roll and learning where to put the decimal point.

    A flag looks fine flying over the university, but it’s out of place in a chemistry lab. I don’t mind seeing it flying over a military base, but not over a car dealership. There’s something distasteful and ostentatious about parading your patriotism in such a way.

    But there’s a bright side to this: Before the bill was passed, our own former Rep. Ted Downing, D-Tucson, tacked on a measure asking that the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, be added to the flag requirement. And since no one could really argue with that, either, it passed.

    While the measure remains as much a waste of money as before, it’s a far more meaningful gesture with the Constitution. Without the document it symbolizes, the flag is little more than a symbol of war. With the Constitution, it symbolizes a great republic.

    In fact, inspired by the mixed feelings I’d had about the flag measure, I sat down and read the Constitution again. And marveled, as I never really had before, at its conciseness. I’m not sure any great work can really be produced by a committee, but if there’s ever been one, this was it. If you’ve never read it (and I mean really read it, not studied it for a civics final), you should take a look at it.

    What a miraculous plan for a government it is; a redistribution of power between the federal government and the states, between the president and the Congress, among the states themselves. And what a truly radical plan it is, for the implication is clear throughout: This is to be a republic of equal citizens, who will bring this blueprint to life through active participation in public life.

    Clearly this message is lost on the majority of public school students, since most of them do not grow up to be active participants in their government. Well, we can’t force everyone to read the Constitution, but we can give them the chance to.

    So I can’t complain too loudly about this measure. If it gets one apathetic student to read and finally comprehend the blueprint for his or her country, that’s enough to offset all the garish car-dealership flags in the world.

    Justyn Dillingham is a senior majoring in history and political history. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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