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