HOW OFTEN do you sign onto social media and notice that a single story seems to be taking over the internet? The latest local outrage, that Londonderry banned the American flag from pep rallies, is just untrue.
Though the story was easily verifiable as false, knee-jerk reactions of many otherwise intelligent Granite Staters were disappointing. On Sept. 10, Londonderry High School teacher Steve Juster sent a note to about 20 students organizing an upcoming pep rally. Under the heading “Pep Rally entrance protocol” was a list of four specific behaviors that were not allowed, based on past mistakes made by student-athletes participating in the rally.
Number four was “NO use of the American flag. Do not wear/carry/present the American flag on the floor.” To the 20 student organizers to whom the note was presented, this was an obvious reference to school policy instituted when students inadvertently offended veterans and others in the Londonderry High School community by wearing the American flag matador-cape style, dropping it on the floor, and other uses not allowed under the U.S. Flag Code.
But on Facebook, it became a call to arms against a liberal school system trying to brainwash our kids, and destroy our nation’s founding principles. Facebook users began encouraging people to demand the resignation of everyone involved. Mr. Juster was called everything from an idiot to a “commie.”
What is most frustrating about this misinformation campaign is that a simple web search would have answered any questions people had. As soon as I saw the flyer, I began conversing with my smart phone. Within moments, I learned that concerns expressed about the treatment of the American flag at past rallies led the school to institute a policy prohibiting the use of the flag as a prop in rally presentations, and encouraged students to carry, wave, and display flags in accordance with the U.S. Flag code. There is a large American flag hanging in the auditorium where the rally takes place.
I also learned that Mr. Juster is a widely-respected teacher, who not only organizes these great spirit-filled rallies with the students, but also leads a school-wide effort every January to support cancer patients through the Pantene Beautiful Locks campaign, was presented with the Hudson VFW Loyalty Award, and was recognized as the Londonderry 2013 Citizen of the Year. When I spoke to people in Londonderry who actually know Mr. Juster, they called him “salt of the earth,” “great guy,” and “most patriotic guy I know.” He’s hardly an American-hating Communist trying to brainwash our youth.
Therein lies the problem. Our country is sinking into an abyss of cynicism and mistrust that leads to instinctive, uninformed overreactions. From cries of “fake news!” to embarrassingly ridiculous pink cat hats, too many wake up every day just looking for something about which to be outraged. Protests “for women’s rights” exclude women who dare speak their pro-life beliefs, and otherwise normal adults devolve into name-calling children over political disagreements. Disrespect, dishonesty, and an erosion of basic human decency have reached epidemic levels.
Folks are justifiably frustrated with deceitful politicians, a biased press and an arrogant education system that too often treats parents like bystanders. But a culture that embraces instant anger, abandons principle and simply does not care about truth cannot last and will become the death of a great nation.
Nashua’s Jennifer Horn is the former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party and is active in political and civic affairs.