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In recent years, “that’s offensive” has skyrocketed up my personal list of most reviled word combinations, right to the top. I mean, it shot straight past “Mom’s period is crazy heavy” and “Can we talk?” The inanity of the complaint “I’m offended,” and the sadly, predictably large and undue amount of attention it almost always receives, drives me nuts.
The student government at the University of California, Irvine just demonstrated exactly why every person, administrator, and campus population at large needs to seriously reevaluate the lens through which they view a person complaining about being offended. The ASUCI banned the hanging of the American flag in their office(s) in a recently passed resolution, because someone or some small group found our country’s flag offensive (or potentially offensive).
In the last week, on college campuses, a fundraiser for needy children was canceled indefinitely because someone was offended by the maracas on the poster promoting it, and the hanging of the American flag in a public office was banned because it could maybe, possibly be offensive to some people.
Let’s break down this resolution from Associated Students UCI (there are a few sics).
Item Number: 81 Legislation Number (B: Bill, R: Resolution): R50-70
Author: Matthew Guevara Second: Khaalidah Sidney
Synopsis: Flags and decoration adjustment for inclusivity
Date of Presentation: March 3rd, 2015
Whereas flags are a symbol of a nation, are used as decorations and have a wide range of cultural significance.
Whereas flags are typically viewed as patriotic symbols of a single nation, are often associated with government and military due to their history and have a wide variety of interpretations.
Whereas the traditional patriotic interpretation of a flag is a result of a nation and/or persons who encourage a nationalistic understanding of the flag.
Whereas traditional understandings and ideologies, as encouraged by the national government, include liberty, democracy, constitution values and are up for interpretation on constituents.
Whereas flags not only serve as symbols of patriotism or weapons for nationalism, but also construct cultural mythologies and narratives that in turn charge nationalistic sentiments.
It’s true, every time I see an American flag waving majestically in the wind, I completely forget what the Trail of Tears was, start shout-singing Toby Keith, and fart on the nearest person who is a nationality of a country the United States defeated in a war. All critical thinking is totally shut off.
Or, at least that’s what would happen if I were as dumb as the UC-Irvine student government assumes its students are.
Whereas flags function specifically for a nation and
Whereas people are assimilated into national ideologies by deployment of this cultural artifact.
Whereas flags construct paradigms of conformity and sets homogenized standards for others to obtain which in this country typically are idolized as freedom, equality, and democracy.
So…wait. You don’t want everyone to practice and support freedom, equality, and democracy? Even hipsters don’t hate conformity that much.
There’s a dent in my desk right now, where I just slammed my head into it while trying to figure out exactly how promoting equality is an aspect of the American flag’s offensiveness in the eyes of the UC-Irvine student government, especially since this resolution was written for the sake of all-inclusiveness. This is the type of paradigm you present to an antagonistic robot to make its head explode.
Whereas symbolism is interpreted differently by different groups or persons based on individual unique experiences.
Whereas a common ideological understanding of the United states includes American exceptionalism and superiority.
Whereas the American flag is commonly flown in government public service locations, military related entities, at homes, in foreign lands where the US government has a presence.
Whereas the American flag has been flown in instances of colonialism and imperialism.
How did California join the United States again?
Whereas symbolism has negative and positive aspects that are interpreted differently by individuals.
Whereas only the negative interpretations by individuals are the viewpoints to be paid attention to.
Whereas displaying a flag does not express only selective aspects of its symbolism but the entire spectrum of its interpretation.
Whereas designing a culturally inclusive space is taken seriously by ASUCI.
Whereas designing a culturally inclusive space aims to remove barriers that create undue effort and separation by planning and designing spaces that enable everyone to participate equally and confidently.
Whereas the removal of barriers is the best option at promoting an inclusive space.
I haven’t been so against the removal of a barrier since a homeless guy tried to rip the door off a public bathroom stall I was occupying at the same moment.
Whereas it is a psychological effect for individuals to identify negative aspects of a space rather than positive ones.
This is the worst part of the whole resolution. This isn’t inclusivity, it’s enabling. Worse, it’s babying, and it actively allows UC-Irvine students to be less effective communicators, and become less well-adjusted, less well-prepared adults. It’s a psychological effect for people to focus on the negative instead of the positive, I agree. For whatever reason, one negative comment I get on this site pisses me off more than two positive comments make me happy. But do you know what else I realize? That it’s stupid for me to think that way, and I get past it, because that “psychological effect” is just a reflex. Reflexive thinking (which is what taking offense almost always is, by the way) should not be rewarded in instances like this. There’s no nuance, no critical aspect of reflexive thinking such as this, and for these sorts of issues, that’s exactly what should be required. Instead, it’s emotional, and rarely do you get anything of value from it. You end up being made to cater to it, because it’s immature and fussy.
These people the ASUCI are catering to likely don’t have PTSD. They likely don’t have deep psychological issues with the American flag. More likely, the flag just makes them a little uncomfortable, like eating a burrito too fast, or the air-conditioning being a little too chilly. Well, put on a fucking sweater, so to speak. The ASUCI is literally encouraging UC-Irvine students to embrace their easily overcomeable intellectual and communication deficiencies. It’s telling them to embrace bad habits. Furthermore, it promotes close-mindedness by rewarding people who focus on the negative and ignoring those who focus on, or at least can identify, the positive. Only the negative matters to them.
Is the space where the ASUCI wants to have these open, inclusive discussions supposed to help students develop their communication and critical thinking skills within group discussions? If so, I can guarantee the students will be done a far greater service if they have to express themselves in a place they maybe aren’t totally comfortable in (that doesn’t mean unwelcome or devalued, just not totally comfortable) than one in which they are overly nurtured. You’re better off stepping into adult life with thick skin, and you’d be hard-pressed to find many adults who disagree with that.
Whereas whenever public spaces are produced and managed by narrow interests, they are bound to become exclusive places and
Whereas the planning process must be inclusive in such that designers are advised to forget about the ‘average’ user or themselves and instead begin the open space designing process with ‘deep knowledge’ of the preferences of the actual communities who are likely to use those spaces
According to this Facebook post from the student government president in response to the resolution — and the VAST majority of the comments — the communities’ preferences seem to favor the option of hanging (not even actually hanging it, JUST KEEPING ON THE TABLE THE OPTION OF HANGING) the flag.
But whatever, fuck what all these people who aren’t offended by the American flag say. The only voices that matter are the handful of people who are offended. Of course, now all these people are offended by the resolution…
My God!!!!!! WHO ARE THEY SUPPOSED TO LISTEN TO!??!?!
Whereas designers should be careful about using cultural symbols as the symbols will inherently remain open for interpretation.
Whereas once an open space is created, it is important to employ continual evaluation in order to understand changing use patterns and needs over time.
Whereas a high-quality culturally inclusive spaces is essential in any society that embodies a dynamic and multifaceted culture
Whereas freedom of speech is a valued right that ASUCI supports.
Whereas freedom of speech, in a space that aims to be as inclusive as possible can be interpreted as hate speech.
So obviously, the most appropriate first response is to ban and censor instead of seek clarification. FREE SPEECH!
Let it be resolved that ASUCI make every effort to make the Associated Students main lobby space as inclusive as possible.
Let it further be resolved that no flag, of any nation, may be hanged on the walls of the Associate Student main lobby space.
Good. Because the other day, I took a BuzzFeed quiz that told me I was totes a Slytherin, and the Mexican flag, with the eagle eating the snake, offends the titty-fucking shit out of me now.
Let it be further be resolved that if a decorative item is in the Associate student lobby space and issues arise, the solution will be to remove the item if there is considerable request to do so.
I encourage every UC-Irvine fraternity to have each pledge handwrite a letter to the ASUCI claiming to be offended by time, because time killed their grandparents, and demand the removal of every calendar and clock in the office.
Referred to: Committee on:
Vote Required: Majority FINAL VOTE: Passed YEA: 6 NAY: 4 ABS: 2
THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL OF THE ASSOCIATED STUDENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFONIA, IRVINE ON THE DATE OF March 5th, 2015 HAS TAKEN ACTION ON THIS LEGISLATION.
Here’s hoping the kids who wrote this end up making a difference — that difference being that society, or at least the good people at UC-Irvine, start taking those who cry “I’m offended” infinitely less seriously..