[Editor’s note: An apology from the editor]
We have heard a lot of talk in the past few months about flags and symbols.
Back in May, the Carroll County Board of Education adopted a policy that the only flags that can be displayed in Carroll County Schools are our national flag, the Maryland state flag, the Carroll County flag, banners celebrating school accomplishments, college or pro team flags and flags related to specific individual units within the school system.
In Anne Arundel County, County Councilman Nathan Volke wanted to expand that kind of policy to apply to all county buildings. Volke proposed a bill that would have limited the types of flags that could be flown in all Anne Arundel County buildings and on county flagpoles to three: the flag of the United States, the flag of the state of Maryland and the flag of Anne Arundel County.
Volke eventually withdrew his original proposal, replacing it with a bill that would prohibit outside individuals or groups from displaying flags in county buildings. But not before battle lines were drawn in discussions about diversity and freedom of speech.
The problems with these expressions of opposition to flag policies, both in Anne Arundel County and Carroll County, show that people often want to conflate the issues that are actually at hand.
In a recent letter to the editor in The Capital Gazette, Anne Arundel County Library CEO Skip Auld wrote:
“At the libraries, this proposed limitation would constrain our workers from displays and promotions of books, movies, and music on myriad topics ranging from veterans’ celebrations to military occasions, from Hispanic or Native American heritage month programs to National Night Out and Women’s History Month, and yes, Pride Month.”
The original policy that Volke proposed, however, has nothing to do with displays, books, movies or music. It has to do with flags. Like the transgender pride flag that hangs in my local Anne Arundel County Library that is completely unrelated to any display, event or special program being offered.
Auld conflates, possibly intentionally, the idea of limits on flags with assaults on free speech, book bans and free expression.
What Auld seems to gloss over is the fact that when a county government building flies a flag it gives the county’s imprimatur to that cause, intentionally or otherwise.
The same types of politicizing happened in Carroll County when their board of education adopted its policy. The Maryland Democratic Party, for example, issued a statement saying the decision “sends a message to our children and future generations of Marylanders that discrimination still has too vast of a reach in our communities.”
The ban does not apply to the Pride flag any differently than it would a Black Lives Matter flag, a Let’s Go Brandon flag or the Confederate battle flag. All are politicized flags. None have any place being displayed as part of a school-sanctioned display.
The ban also does not stop individual students from expressing their political beliefs in school. It only bans the display of such political flags in a school-sanctioned manner, something that has become far too common throughout the last few years.
What opponents of these restrictions on allowable flags fail to realize the point of a flag. A flag is a symbol; a symbol of support for a political entity, a culture or an ideology. Flying a flag indicates support for that nation, that state, that idea.
A perfect example of that was recently seen at Chesapeake High School. It was reported that a “red, white, and blue day” for a football game was allegedly canceled because of issues with such a day during the school’s spirit week last year. The community responded by flying American flags before school on the day of the game. The entire situation got out of hand and quickly became heavily politicized by local leaders.
But all of it was because the American flag is a symbol. And some people ascribe different meanings to symbols.
You may see the transgender pride flag as a symbol of tolerance and acceptance. I see it as a flag that denies the basic facts of biology and sex assigned at birth.
You may see the “Let’s Go Brandon” flag as a humorous euphemistic repudiation of a sitting president. I see a juvenile symbol of our failed political discourse.
Where you stand on these flags depends on where you sit. But either way, when you see them both you understand the political message being sent by the person or organization flying it.
Even if you get past the political nature of all of this, I come back to a basic fundamental question: What purpose does the school flying or displaying a pride flag have?
Whether activists and politicians want to admit it, public buildings are not the place for affirming the sexuality of students, teachers or anybody else. I do not believe that discussing sexuality, transgender identity and other such topics in schools — as Democrats insist on — helps in any way educate students or prepare them for success in life.
That is not to say that schools and governments should not protect the rights of all students. But I do not believe their sexual orientation should be promoted, encouraged and celebrated in an official capacity in the way activists insist they should.
Freedom of speech is ensuring that your rights to express yourself are protected. But these laws limiting government-funded flag displays protect all of us from the imposition of opinions by the government. It is common sense to support real bills that protect us all.