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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘A’ Mountain of colors and controversy

    For years it stood whitewashed. It has been painted patriotic red, white and blue; black by anti-war protestors; and sea-foam green by enthusiastic St. Patrick’s Day pranksters. And at least once it has dripped shamefully in the colors of rival ASU. But attached to “”A”” Mountain, a longstanding emblem of the university, is much unexpected controversy and grounds for discussion.

    Since 1916, when students spent two years of Saturdays building the “”A,”” it has been whitewashed. But shortly after 9/11, the “”A”” received a patriotic makeover – causing quite a stir in the community along the way.

    Oddly enough, many students today know very little of this history – probably because most students assume that the “”A”” is painted in Wildcat colors and that it has always been that way, drenched in school pride.

    But there is ongoing debate over how and why the “”A”” was repainted – and none of it has to do with school spirit. After Sept. 11, there was talk of painting it red, white and blue in support of the troops or of the war in Iraq. But anti-war protesters responded by painting the “”A”” black. And when things got out of hand and paint started flying, the City Council was called on to make a decision.

    Thus, the “”A”” was painted red, white and blue until the “”current conflict in the Middle East is resolved.”” You read that right – we could be talking until the end of time.

    But just in case that day does, in fact, come, or our foreign involvement ends, will the “”A”” return to its once-white status or will it retain its current hues?

    It is the middle of Homecoming week, and as alumni are making their way back onto campus to root on their team, sport their colors and see what we have done with their campus, it is interesting to think of what “”tradition”” really means.

    Tradition lasts as long as the students will support it. And if we have lost the original meaning of patriotism over time and replaced it with school pride, is that so bad?

    More important, where were all the students when the repainting was going on? And why is control of our “”A”” a City Council decision? There is no “”A”” in “”Tucson.”” Sure, the “”A”” is in a city park, and yes, it isn’t the university’s land. But right now the future of the “”A”” is a free-for-all, and its fate should belong to the students. Not the community. Not the City Council. And not anybody who wants to use our “”A”” to make a statement. Their thoughts are surely worth something, but tradition belongs to the students.

    Some in the community argue that the UA should not be supporting the war with its colorful symbol. Last year in the Tucson Weekly, Dave Devine called the “”A”” a “”local symbol for a catastrophic error that has cost the lives of almost 3,000 U.S. troops.””

    For many students, the colors are not a symbol of protest, support, patriotism or political agenda. It is just “”A”” Mountain. Maybe the motivations to use particular colors began as any combination of those things, but can’t they end as school pride and patriotism? Or will it be an uphill battle back to white?

    Either way, UA freshmen paint the “”A”” every year, so the students should ultimately decide what paint to use. We have a student government, don’t we? Why do we need the City Council to step in?

    Eventually, a decision will have to be made, and that decision should belong to the students. It would be sad to allow it to slip by unnoticed, only to allow the fate of UA tradition to be determined by anyone but the students. We wouldn’t let anyone change the lyrics to “”Bear Down,”” so let’s not give away our “”A,”” either.

    If and when this war comes to an end, it should be our responsibility to decide: do we drain out the red, white and blue because the troops have come home and the war has ended? Or do we keep it, vibrant in all three colors, because tradition has been shifted and both patriotism and school pride simply never end?

    It is true that Chelsea Jo Simpson is a junior majoring in journalism and Spanish. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu. Copy said link to your preferred email client.

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