Tuesday, October 2, 2007

New Mexico's "Flag"-Ship University?

I have not posted anything political in a very long time. However, this is something that happened here at home. I have strong opinions about it and I cannot let this one pass in silence.

The University of New Mexico bills itself as "New Mexico's Flagship University."

It is my guess that the powers that be that reside in Scholes Hall--which is the administration building--consider that to mean that it is the first among equals in the state university system. Because if New Mexicans thought it meant something to actually do with the actual flag--you know, the one we lovingly call 'Old Glory'--we'd all ROTFL.

Here are the facts: On September 17, 2007--the 220th anniversary of the adoption of the United States Constitution--students arrived on campus to find the Mexican national flag flying alone in front of Scholes Hall. Evidently, the Mexican Student's Union had put the flag up next to Old Glory on Friday to mark Mexican independence day but did not take it down. The ROTC squad that took the American flag down left the Mexican flag flying alone because they thought that the Mexican Student's Union would take it down later. (The ROTC squad should be doing extra push-ups for this lack of knowledge of flag ettiquette. You don't ever lower the US flag on American territory before another national flag. It makes it look like you've surrendered to a foreign power). Some students might have thought that maybe the powers that be in Scholes Hall had surrendered UNM to Mexico--after all, when it comes to the university administration's actions, students tend to think nothing is too far fetched to be true. But most students probably didn't notice anything at all except that the shuttles were running late and crowded, and hurried off to class. That is, except Peter Ryan Lynch, a decorated US war veteran and a student. And he called up the powers that be at Scholes Hall to inform them of the surrender...er, I mean mistake.

This is what transpired in his own words:

"Throughout history, flying a nation's banner is a claim of ownership. To do this on U.S. Constitution Day is an insult to all Americans. I am outraged that the UNM administration allowed this to happen. I thought the administration would address the issue before my class was over. I left class, and the foreign banner was still unaccompanied. I went to the dean's office pleading for action. I also notified the Army ROTC, which has the honor of raising and lowering the U.S. flag on campus this month. I waited one to 1 1/2 hours after these notifications to take action myself. I made a profound statement and tore down this foreign banner. My actions, although overzealous, were warranted."
(From the Daily Lobo, Opinion, 9/25/07).

Mr. Lynch delivered the torn Mexican flag to the ROTC commander. And then the hullaballoo started. He was charged with destruction of property. El Centro de La Raza cried "racism" and charged that this was a "hate crime." The President of the UNM Schmidley decried the tearing down of the Mexican flag, but said nothing about his responsibility as the 'admiral' of New Mexico's "flagship' for the violation of US law and the insult to American citizens caused by the Mexican flag flying three days alone over sovereign US territory.

It is interesting that the president of the university does not get it that the buck for whatever happens on UNM campus should stop on his desk. We have too many public officials who do not take the responsibility that goes with the powers of an office. Schmidley may not be personally responsible for insulting American sensibilities in this case, but he leads the institution that is responsible. A leader ought to take corporate responsibility instead of spouting nonsense about how New Mexico was once part of Mexico. That history has not bearing on the breach of patriotic duty we witnessed on September 17.

It is interesting that the Army ROTC did not know how to handle the ceremonial responsibilities that go with the honor of posting and striking the colors. It would have been better to have taken the Mexican flag down first and returned it to La Raza or left 'Old Glory' flying, than to do what they did. The ROTC leadership needs to apologize to the UNM community and the citizens of US for the insult tendered by this lack of knowledge. And maybe they ought to impose extra laps or pushups on the color guard members who "forgot" their responsibility to post the US flag on Constitution day.

El Centro de la Raza had better take the advice handed to everyone who dwells in glass palaces. An organization with a name that means 'the Center for the Race' should not be the first to cry racism. And they should further note that hate crimes are, by definition, crimes against people, not flags. It is neither racism nor hatred that motived Mr. Lynch's actions. It was a passionate commitment to the honor of his country. A commitment for which Mr. Lynch has demonstrated his willingness to shed blood and die, if necessary.

As for Mr. Lynch, I think he was overzealous. As a mother nearing fifty years of age, I would probably have taken down the Mexican flag and turned it over, intact, to La Raza. Age and experience has cooled my zealousness a little bit. But Mr. Lynch is a young man. And young men and women tend to be zealous for their causes, and passionate about their beliefs. Would that those who would like to lead this country would demonstrate as much passion for American sensibilities as does Mr. Lynch. It is not racist to defend the honor of the United States and the Constitution. It is not hatred to be passionate about the ideals that this nation espouses. As Mr. Lynch puts it:

"Americans have one of the most diverse cultures on the planet. We embrace our differences, and unless you are a foreign visitor or illegal immigrant, your nationality is American. We are all equals under the Constitution and the Stars and Stripes that protect us. Americans should fly their nation's banner with pride." (Daily Lobo, Opinions, 9/25/07)

We need more young men and women like this.


Amie said...

Wow, quite a story. I totally agree with your take on it.

It's unfortunate (but not surprising) the lack of flag etiquette that Americans learn. I remember reading an editorial after 911 about the proper rules for flying the flag, and I hadn't heard of most of them.

denise said...

How very interesting! I can see how everyone is worked up...but seems as though no one is doing anything but pointing fingers.

I guess the benefit of growing up in the 60s/70s is that it was still PC to be a girl/boy scout, so pretty much everyone knew something about flag etiquette. ;)

Perhaps a call for a Citizen Cotillion!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Elisheva Hannah Levin said...


I am going to try to edit your comment to take out the "f" because it will be offensive to some of my readers. I may have to delete and repost your comment in order to do so.

The day after I made my post, I saw the "MySpace" story in the paper. However, I do note that Mr. Lynch denies the accusation and since I know something about unsecure internet posts are, I am waiting to see what transpires. It is interesting that the writing style of the writing is so different than the letter to the editor could cause a person to wonder if the same person wrote both.

My criticisms of the leadership of ROTC and UNM stand. The incident could have been avoided if they had taken responsibility in the first place. And my general statement about the apalling lack of knowledge on the part of US citizens about flag etiquette still stand.

And I still think El Centro de la Raza ought to carefully consider when to play the race card. It is not always the most politically advantageous approach.

I stand by my opinion that there are many people who are responsible for the breach of flag etiquette here.

As for your comments about the justice system, etc., I will discuss those in a full post.

Thanks for the comment.

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

I have deleted an anonymous commentors original comment and reposted here, so that I could remove the f-word which might be offensive to some of my readers. I also removed a term that refers to illegal aliens in an offensive way. The anonymous commentor was quoting from a site whose citation is left in for those who wish to see the original with the offensive terms left in.

"I say next time the (f-word) (offensive term for Mexican border crossers) march down our streets we load up on Keith’s semi and fly my garrison sized US flag then we drive threw the (f-word)!"
- Peter Lynch

The now deleted MySpace Group posting (PDF)

The link to this PDF is on El Centro de la Raza's front page. If you look it up on MySpace, it won't be there, it has since been deleted.

In a legal system where "guilty" means "what they can prove you did", Peter Lynch might get off with just a slap on the wrist.

Forget his actions, judge his motivations (since everyone seems to be throwing judgment left and right)..

But only he knows what really motivated him to do what he did - and the way he chose to do it.

As a decorated veteran, he should have gone up the chain of command at the ROTC and demanded the flag situation be fixed.

How much more effort could it have taken to contact the Commanding Officer of the Commanding Officer at the UNM ROTC?

Why not stomp and yell in the UNM President's office until something was done about it?

Why didn't he return the flag to El Centro de la Raza directly?

Why did he take it upon himself to perform the symbolic gesture of ripping up a foreign flag?

No one will ever know -- except Peter Lynch ... and God.

October 3, 2007 9:01:00 PM MDT

Anonymous said...

As a decorated veteran, he should have gone up the chain of command at the ROTC and demanded the flag situation be fixed.

How much more effort could it have taken to contact the Commanding Officer of the Commanding Officer at the UNM ROTC?

Why not stomp and yell in the UNM President's office until something was done about it? Did that in the deans office, I thought the dean enforced the rules.

Why didn't he return the flag to El Centro de la Raza directly? I Thought it was a student acting alone since the lock box was unlocked.

Why did he take it upon himself to perform the symbolic gesture of ripping up a foreign flag? It's not about the forgin flag, it's about our flag and our country. OUR FLAG all of US.