Monica E. Smith

Monica E. Smith

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Throwing out the Baby with the Bath Water

Actually, I don't normally "rant" here. But I heard what I thought to be a disturbing news story the other day, one that, I believe, goes deeper than the incident itself, one that doesn't bode well for the moral direction of our country.

It seems a college student at the University of New Hampshire had hung a United States flag on the wall outside his dorm room window. He wanted to support and honor his father, who had served in the military for 20 years.  No, that is not disturbing to me (had I been that young man's parent, I would have been extremely proud). What is disturbing is that the university forced him to take it down. It seems their policy prohibits "television or radio antennae and any other objects which are placed outside the room window or anywhere on the exterior of the building or adjacent grounds." Comforting to know, especially in these dark days of terrorism, that our American flag has now been put into the category of miscellaneous objects which obstruct. I certainly believe in authority, guidance and ethical behavior.  But there is an element of "the greater good" here that is being sorely overlooked.

It seems that this policy is in place because the university can't have all sorts of inappropriate things being hung everywhere, not that that United States flag is inappropriate of course, as the UNH administrators say; but if they allowed one object, they'd have to allow everything.

This morning I heard of the Chester City, Pennsylvania firefighter who has been suspended without pay because he refused to take down the American flag decal from his locker. This is the new policy because of a recent racially offensive cartoon posted by a colleague.

The fire commisioner stated the policy remains in effect because "How do we know what offends who?" he said. "I have to play Solomon here." I see two things wrong with this:

One, there is an inherent danger in blanket policies such as these. They are made without much thought and out of fear and our need to control. Are we to refrain from speaking truth, or displaying or expressing what is righteous and good in fear that those who oppose might become offended? Are we no longer "allowed" to express positive and encouraging thoughts? Do we not encourage evil when we are afraid to speak of truth and fidelity and integrity?

Two, Solomon spoke with wisdom.