Tuesday, April 11, 2006

About Those Flags … And the Ongoing Debasement of the English Language by the Houston Chronicle

It looks as if the marchers who turned out for the not-so-big demonstrations Monday in Houston and elsewhere got the memo about the flags, judging by the profusion of red, white and blue in the pictures and video of the local protest (including one upside-down Old Glory prominent in the Houston Chronicle’s large page-one photo of the marchers headed to Allen’s Landing.)

The Chronicle got the memo, too. Whereas Houston’s leading daily newspaper studiously ignored the presence of so many Mexican flags at the student walkouts of recent days past (until the clamor over the displays got too loud for even the Chronicle to ignore, although it still hasn’t gotten around to exploring the meaning behind the Mexican flag-waving [which admittedly would be heavy-lifting for the paper]), the display of the U.S. flag at Monday’s event was big news.

“American colors fly during rally,” read the headline next to a huge picture, stretching across most of the City & State section, of an open-throated marcher brandishing (literally) the Star and Stripes, a visual that managed to project the pathos of both Stanley Kowalski and Joan of Arc. Under the headline was this copy:

In Houston-area protests held prior to Monday’s march, several protestors carried the Mexican flag, raising the ire of immigration opponents, some of whom viewed carrying anything other than the Stars and Stripes as anti-American.
This sentence sums up what’s wrong with the daily’s approach to the entire issue. First, “several” means a few, maybe five or six at the most. At the late-inning walkout from a nearby high school that we drove past last week, easily a dozen Mexican flags or representations thereof were visible. That's more than several right there. There must have been dozens if not hundreds being waved around town, at the least, during the walkouts. Several is a lie, pure and simple (perhaps the quantifying was done by whoever came up with the 50,000 figure for Monday's demonstration).

More grievous, though, is the newspaper’s persistent characterization of the debate as one over immigration, and its labeling of those who might take issue with the marchers (or favor stricter immigration law) as immigration opponents. Again, this is a lie, and it’s all over the daily paper.

The issue is illegal immigration. Outside of the three or four guys keeping the Klan together in that trailer up in Montgomery County, who’s complaining about legal immigration? This is a nation of immigrants, etc, and we damn sure need more immigrants, especially ones with the math and science skills we lack (whether we need more yardmen is debatable: the public health benefits to be derived from increasing numbers of overweight and out-of-shape Caucasians having to mow their own lawns and repair their own roofs would seem to argue against it).

This is not a small distinction.

By the way, we don’t view “carrying anything other than the Stars and Stripes” as anti-American---especially at rallies whose ostensible purpose is to influence the debate so that many of the marchers can continue to stay in this country (their outsized sense of entitlement already qualifying them to be American citizens, at least in spirit).

No, we view that as … dumb.

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