A small incident that tells much about America – a flag gets lowered in a classroom!

Summary:  This is a picture of America today, a snapshot of why we might be a nation in decline.  It’s a small incident, but typical of so much that takes place today — many times per month (week?  day?) around the nation.  Perhaps above all, it is about adults acting as children.

(1)  On August 29 a right-wing website publishes a photo taken in a classroom at Bauder Elementary (Ft. Collins, CO; 418 students):  What’s That Flag? at the GreeleyReport. Additional posts follow, shifting from hysterical to crazy-like.

From The Greeley Report

(2)  On August 30 the local newspaper writes about it:  “American flag lowered in presence of Saudi Arabian flag at Ft. Collins public school” in the Greeley Gazette.  Typical journalism:  incendiary title, with the facts in the story telling a different story than the headline.

Bedfellow:  “Hello, Bloom Beacon! This is Senator Bedfellow! What’s with this headline? … There’s no story, just a headline!”
Milo:  “Which headline?”
Bedfellow:  “The big headline on the front page!” ‘BEDFELLOW: THE SECRET LIFE OF A WIFE-SWAPPING ATHEIST’”
Mile:  “Oh, that’s just a typo.”
— From an “Bloom County”, Berke Breathed’s great comic strip

(3)  An exaggerated version of the story goes viral (525 hits on Google; I received two emails about it).  Including a carefully edited and incendiary article at Fox News.

It’s pure agitprop, taking a tiny incident and exaggerating it for political purposes. There is no documentation of when the photo was taken.  No way of knowing by whom or why the flag was lowered. It may have been done by a child as a prank for another reason.  Or by the person taking the photo, to embarrass the school staff.

The staff fixed the flag when notified, all we can reasonably expect them to do. Most of the people screaming in outrage would probably scream louder if their taxes were raised another dime to pay for the extra staff to provide more supervision at school.

That the hordes of ignorant people are calling for heads to roll (see the comments in the Greeley Gazette article) demonstrates why so many officials in America — public and private — regard the public as a pack of rapid dogs, able to turn on you for no rational reason.  Americans often whine about incompetent officials, but too seldom defend officials unjustly attacked by mobs.

The howl about even just the presence of foreign flags in our schools displays the xenophobia that might restrain America from participating fully in the globalized world that transportation and communication make inevitable in the 21st century.  Perhaps America would become stronger if its adults should speak as loudly and often as those on the childish fringes.  At the very least, mockery of the nonsense from the fringes might help keep them in line.

Other posts about our struggle to adapt to a new century

  1. Which is better? Rioting in France and Greece or snoozing in America?, 28 October 2010
  2. Polarization and hot rhetoric conceal two similar political parties. Will we ever notice?, 29 October 2010
  3. We have the leaders we deserve. Visit MacDonald’s to learn why., 30 October 2010
  4. The problem with America lies in our choice of heroes, 2 November 2010
  5. The Enigma of American Power, 8 November 2010
  6. Why China will again rise to the top. About their most important advantage over America., 11 November 2010
  7. The story of the early 21st century: the future arrives, forcing us to build a new world order, 6 December 2010

4 thoughts on “A small incident that tells much about America – a flag gets lowered in a classroom!”

  1. As an outsider looking in I find this aspect of the American psyche utterly baffling.

    It strikes me that those that are least at ease with themselves (emotionally, financially, socially, spiritually, you name it) are the most likely to blow up over things that more self-assured people shrug off as inconsequential. It’s always dangerous to extrapolate from the individual to the society, but it does seem to me that this is a symptom of a society that can sense there’s a problem somewhere but can’t figure out what that problem actually is and so lashes out at trivial issues. Different groups (Republicans/Democrats spring to mind, but I wouldn’t confine the issue there) externalize the problem differently and mentally entrench, enhancing the other-ness of alternative views. I think this ties in with my “Ask FabiusMaximus” question earlier today; There must be a sense among the population that the world has changed and that the future may not be “more of the same only better” for the US, but since they can’t countenance that idea, all that is left is a sense of uncertainty.

    I could drone on with my amateur psych(soci-)ology but I think that’s enough for now.

    1. “Why” is often the most difficult of questions to answer. We can only guess at the causes of these events. My guess is that they reflect a society — or perhaps a social class — under stress. So they identify enemies — creaping Islam — that are clear targets. Unfortunately they are targets unrelated to the cause of their problems.

      The obvious — and extreme — example is the hatred of the Jews in late 1920-1945 Germany.

      1. I have to disagree with FM on the “why.” My guess is that they are motivated by the same values that drove the chariot racers of the late Roman era and the early Byzantine era. There’s profit and power to be gained by raising this meaningless incident. Furthermore a lot of these people are bored and need entertainment.

        In ancient times the petty rivalries between competing chariot racing teams escalated until the Nika riots that nearly overthrew Justinian. I doubt our current, relatively efficient police state will allow it to get that bad but it can be very hard on people who are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  2. You make good points. I also wonder if this could be a set up by the Left — or the Right, or perhaps the confused. Today these things get people to over react. All this hyper-emotionalism is getting out of hand. The news media on all sides bombarding people with information that may or may be factual and/or complete, but even that information has an agenda coupled with a man behind the curtain.

    Everyone today wants to be special and treated as the exception. More desire/motivation/effort gets spent on/put into getting a government check rather than a pay check. The few real citizens are being crowded out by drive-by consumers. Even fewer come here to become citizens but to merely consume.

    Again all this media saturation bombardment (a way to get ratings — follow the money of course) is taking a neuropsychological toll on Americans. Researchers suggest that when neuropsychological capacities are taxed, ,or overwhelmed, with competing stimuli then cognitive functions suffer – even decompose.

    Some work (see references below) suggest that when one experiences powerful emotional reactions, many people become incapable of considering the consequences of their violent acts (“let’s take out those SOBs”). High arousal (e.g., whipping emotions up; politics, sex, and religion can do that) inhibits cognitive processing, even to a point where one may not think before acting/speaking. The environment where the media on all sides of an issue bombard the public in quest for attention and ratings, simultaneously saturating our stimuli levels, exacerbating already heighten emotional arousal, to a pentacle of hyper reactivity/indiscriminate behavior/thought.


    1. “Collective behavior: Crowds and social movements”, H. Torch and S Milgram, The handbook of social psychology (1969)
    2. “Observational set, empathy, and helping.” David Aderman and Leonard Berkowitz, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, February 1970
    3. Hostility and aggression, D. Zillmann (1979)

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