Readers Deserve Not to Be Mis-informed Nor Ill-informed
Mr. Vaupel’s “causerie” style plays well here in rural N.E. Montana. I enjoy it myself. But, to this observer, he lacks the broad perspective and open mind necessary to objectively seek out facts beyond those that serve his occasionally ill-informed and seemingly prejudiced opinions. The conservative Mr. Vaupel appears to play as free and loose with his facts as liberals on the opposite side do.
At a time when our country is in dire need of unity, and citizens willing to stand up to the divisiveness of ideologues on either side, it was refreshing to see Ms. Yang question Mr. Vaupel’s opinion regarding immigrants. It brought to light an underlying prejudice in the substance (or lack thereof) in several of his assertions. She challenged that, “Mr. Vaupel may never get the insecure feeling that comes with NOT being a member of the dominant majority.” His condescending reply questioned whether Ms. Yang had never heard of the words, “reverse discrimination.” Never mind that there is considerable debate whether the existence of reverse discrimination is even possible on any meaningful scale when a dominant majority retains control of the major institutions in the first place. It’s an insecurity that rests in large part in the imaginations of fearful older white men, and along with skin color and other minority identifiers, it’s a non-issue with those under 34 (the millennials). So, has always been the case, our nation will evolve as change eventually leaves the dinosaurs behind.
Mr. Vaupel may have garnered some credibility had he gone on to describe a personal experience, like being a white person living in a black, Hispanic, or Asian community in the past. Or having lived abroad in a country with an underlying anti-American sentiment. Or at least having used examples based on a few of the reverse discrimination lawsuits that have been successful for individuals even though they can’t be applied across the board. Mr. Vaupel instead chose emotion based examples similar in substance to intolerant viral emails and biased conservative talking heads. He cited a “high schooler in California” who supposedly got in trouble for taking down a Mexican flag that another student supposedly “ran up a school flag pole” . . . and another incident where high school students who wore T-shirts bearing the American flag for Cinco de Mayo at school “were told to go home and change their shirts.” Mr. Vaupel added that this second example also happened in California, quipping “(where else?)” . . . insinuating the liberal state of California was to fault.
Having looked it up, the Mexican flag was not run up the flag pole as stated, but hung on an interior wall of the school below a railing by a student decorating in celebration of Cinco De Mayo with the school’s permission. And, it wasn’t the Californication of political correctness as Mr. Vaupel seemed to imply. It didn’t even happen in California, rather it was the conservative state of Texas! Unless he’s referring to some lesser known occasion. It’s not uncommon to fly the flag of another country alongside ours at special events, like that of our Canadian neighbor to the north. Flag etiquette simply says they can’t be larger, nor higher. The flag of our Mexican neighbor to the south was not higher, in fact, there wasn’t even an American flag in sight of it.
After calling his mother who then called the school to complain but got no satisfaction, the student took it upon himself to tear down the flag and throw it in the trash. Whether it be Canada, Mexico, or any other U.S. ally, trashing their flag would be an insult, and, this student’s vandalism, and Mr. Vaupel’s apparent support, only serve to reinforce our unfortunate image of American arrogance. As his discipline, the boy was suspended and made to pay restitution to the student the flag belonged to.
Mr. Vaupel’s other example, that actually did happen at a California school, (which had a history of violence and gang issues, a school with a police officer stationed at it every day), occurred a year after a clash between white and Mexican students at a Cinco de Mayo event at the school in 2009. The celebration was in the spirit of appreciation of the culture of the Mexican people who settled the valley and still live there. They likened it to St. Patrick’s Day or October Fest. The following year, five non-Mexican students wore T-shirts and bandanas imprinted with the American flag . . . an obvious provocation.
School officials, concerned that it would provoke hostilities and fights with American students of Mexican descent, directed the students to remove the bandanas and turn their T-shirts inside out, or go home with excused absences that would not go against their attendance records. Seems reasonable. Two did go home, but brought suit against the school claiming violation of their rights to freedom of expression. The district judge ruled in favor of the school, as did the U.S. Court of Appeals, which held that the school anticipated violence or substantial disruption of school activities and that its response was tailored to the circumstances. The Supreme Court rejected their free speech appeal, strengthening the authority of schools to suppress clothing or other symbols that might trigger trouble, i.e. the Confederate flag, etc.
Mr. Vaupel said he was only against illegal immigrants, but went on to slight all Americans of Mexican descent stating, “Cinco de Mayo Day was actually created by the tequila and Mexican beer producers to promote the drinking of their products.” He boldly challenged… “(Look it up!).”
A UCLA newsroom article shows the holiday has been celebrated in California continuously since 1863. Time Magazine reports that it came into vogue in 1940s America, spreading through the U.S. in the 50s and 60s. But it wasn’t until the 1980s that marketers (American, not Mexican), mostly beer companies, started to promote it. Fact is, Mexican beer and tequila companies did not “create” it.
Naturally, Cinco de Mayo celebrations are most common in areas with larger Mexican-American populations. Just as the Scandinavian-American Norsk Hostfest celebration is in Minot ND., or the German-American Schmeckfest is in the Lustre community. In 2005 Congress asked President Bush to call on the American people to observe Cinco de Mayo with appropriate ceremonies and activities. It’s understandable then that school districts hold special events to educate students about its historical significance (the Mexicans defeating the French at the Battle of Puebla, alleviating U.S. fears of French influence in our Civil War). Unfortunately, Mr. Vaupel graduated too early to learn. But not to worry, he can catch up. After all, as he stated, his motto is “Growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional!”
On the side of reason,
P.S. Editor Sir: I signed the original anonymously, and this one with a pen name, not only for business and personl concerns, but I felt the focus should be on the merit of its content, not the author. The intent wasn’t to see it published, but to urge Virgil to be more careful so we readers can trust that we are being neither ill-informed, nor misinformed. Since your June 17th column deemed the issue worthwhile in the wider venue of healthy public discourse, enclosed is the verification of authorship you sought. There would be a lot less acrimony if ALL OF US exercised the self-discipline of checking our facts before spewing forth opinions, regardless of how passionately we feel. Particularly if they are based on cable news shows, or biased internet sources.