Friday, May 7, 2010

Hey, Show Some Respect!

I'm not sure what they teach about respect at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, California, but it's time for some remedial education following the blow-up over four students wearing American Flag shirts on Cinco de Mayo.

True respect must be earned as well as given. I like what the Bible says about it:
"Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody." (1 Thes. 4:11-12 NIV)

"Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the LORD and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other." (1 Thes. 5:12-13 NIV)

"Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear GOD, honor the king." (1 Peter 2:17 NIV)
So we see it's a two-way dynamic. Demanding respect from someone like a mafia padrone is not respect but coercion. It's no way to show love, either, as we are taught. Also, respect given for one particular thing, by definition, does not automatically translate into a lack of respect for something else.

Let's apply this to the current dispute. When the four students at Live Oak High wore American flag shirts on Cinco de Mayo, were they showing disrespect to Mexico or Mexicans? The argument is they were, because of the context of the day and what it means to people with Mexican heritage. As the Gilroy Dispatch reports:
"It's disrespectful to do it on Cinco de Mayo," said Jessica Cortez, a Live Oak sophomore. "They can be a patriot on some other day. Not that specific day."
My follow up questions to Miss Cortez, if I could have asked them, would be these: Why is wearing an American flag disrespectful on Cinco de Mayo? Do you see it as a swipe at your culture or heritage? Would you confront them on it? Would you want somebody who is not of Mexican heritage to wear a Mexican flag shirt? Would you be bothered by a Hispanic student wearing an American flag shirt on this day? Would you wear a Mexican Flag shirt on Independence Day?

I have questions for the flag-shirted students: Would it bother you if people wear shirts with Mexican flags in America? Why? Would you confront them on it? What would you say?

My point is this: this dispute is not about kids wearing flag shirts; it's about people who see mistakenly see pride in one's own heritage as oppression without any aggressive or separatist actions to back it up. One parent claims one of the flag-shirted students yelled, "We live in America!" The veracity of that claim hasn't been established, but if it's true, then that crosses the line from pride into aggression.

Another action by students also flirts with the line:
Locally, about 200 Hispanic students walked out of Live Oak and Ann Sobrato high schools, chanting "Si se puede" and "We want respect" and disrupting traffic as they marched through Morgan Hill to demonstrate their support for Mexico.
Tying up traffic and ditching classes isn't a good way to win respect from others on anything. You're not respecting drivers' need to get where they're going. Ironically, it's the 1st Amendment of the U.S., not Mexico, that allows these students to enjoy freedom of assembly. (Mexico, by the way, does have freedoms of speech in its constitution, but given the level of violence and corruption that country now struggles with, I have a lot of doubts.)

This whole sad saga started with the school's administrators sending the four students home for wearing the shirts. The admins thought they were heading off confrontations. Yup, that worked really well. They crossed the respect line by letting fear cloud their judgment, leaving the perception they were taking an anti-patriotic, politically correct side. We have evidence none of the current rhubarb would have happened if the school leaders had just let things be:
Over at Gilroy High School, Mexican and American patriotic colors commingled peacefully Wednesday, Principal Marco Sanchez said.

"Kids were in good spirits," he said. "I was out on campus most of the day and didn't see anything that was abnormal."

Plenty of students donned both countries' national colors, but none were sent home for wearing green, red, white, blue or any combination thereof, he said. Doing so would be "outrageous," he said.

"We're not going to be sending kids home for wearing American flags or wearing patriotic colors," Sanchez said. "That's discriminatory."
From this account, it looks like the people at Gilroy get it. They've found a way to celebrate heritage respectfully. Nice job!

I wonder what would've happened if I had worn my Highland kilt into school on Cinco de Mayo. I'm sure some people would've laughed or puzzled or asked The Question... or said "Wrong country, retard!"

Then I could've told them Mexico has a significant number of people who are either Scottish or descended from Scottish settlers. If we're all here from somewhere else, as people who love history and heritage like to say, nobody should have a problem respecting that.

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