STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Emma Gonzalez isn't endorsing communism, she's living her truth

Some Republican ideologues are grasping at straws to try and impugn the character of ...

Posted: Mar 29, 2018 9:08 AM
Updated: Mar 29, 2018 9:08 AM

Some Republican ideologues are grasping at straws to try and impugn the character of Emma Gonzalez, the fiercely outspoken young woman who has become a leading voice of the gun control movement since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last month.

Perhaps the most confounding attack came from Iowa Rep. Steve King, who suggested Gonzalez was expressing support for a communist dictatorship by wearing a Cuban flag patch on her jacket during the March For Our Lives rally in Washington.

Putting aside for a moment the real possibility that King's statement was merely a cynical ploy to distract the American public from the real issue at hand -- the urgent need for stricter gun control laws -- his comment betrays a lack of understanding about the meaning of the Cuban flag (and, for that matter, about most flags displayed outside their country of origin).

The Cuban flag is not a symbol of political orientation, as King suggests, but rather a sign of national belonging, independent of ideological belief. And one reason King and many Americans don't understand this is because the American flag has come to represent for many a specific ideology that some consider xenophobic or militaristic.

While it's preposterous to argue that a symbol representing a whole nation of people could ever mean only one thing, a clear contrast exists between the contemporary connotations of the Cuban and American flags respectively: the first is tied to ethnic identity while the second is tied to political ideology.

While for many the American flag stands for patriotism, national pride, military might or American exceptionalism (research has shown that exposure to the flag increases feelings of nationalism), the display of many other national flags often signals a sense of ethnic pride, particularly when they're displayed in the diaspora.

And this is where Emma Gonzalez's decision to wear a Cuban flag comes in. Following Rep. King's comments, she and her family felt a need to explain this decision, which they did via Florida Rep. (and Cuban-American famous for her opposition to the Castro regimes) Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who tweeted that Miami is filled with Cuban-American homes that proudly fly the Cuban flag, independent of their feelings about the government in Havana.

In fact, both supporters and critics of the Cuban revolution have historically utilized the Cuban flag for their own purposes. Exhibit A: images of Miami and Cuba reacting to the news that Fidel Castro had died. In the first, mass celebration; in the second, mass mourning.

Not only is the Cuban flag not representative of political ideology, but it was also not even designed by a Cuban. As Cuban-American historian Andr-s Pertierra commented on Twitter, "The flag wasn't created in 1959. In fact, it has its origins in the annexationist movement of the 19th century!"

The design for the Cuban flag was conceived of in 1850 by a Venezuelan general, Narciso L-pez, who was living in the US at the time. While L-pez's ultimate goal was Cuban independence from Spain (and not necessarily Cuban annexation to the US), he courted both Southern (pro-slavery) and Northern (pro-abolition) annexationists to gain support for his anti-colonial uprisings in Cuba.

The Cuban flag has been used to represent a wide range of political ideologies and projects in the past two centuries: annexation to the US, independence from Spain, Cuban socialism and anti-communist sentiment by Cuban exiles. And now it's been utilized by a young Cuban-American fighting for gun control who identifies as bisexual and whose appearance challenges widely accepted notions of femininity in the US and Cuba. It has appeared at the March for Our Lives.

Consider in contrast the use of the flag surrounding Colin Kaepernick's protest, in which the then-49ers quarterback refused to stand during the singing of the National Anthem in order to protest police brutality. Kaepernick himself drew a link between the American flag and institutional racism when he stated, "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color."

Kaepernick's actions were predictably met with fervent critique by right-wing conservatives. Even after Kaepernick was effectively blackballed by NFL owners, other NFL players continued to kneel and were met by one of President Trump's infamous tirades, calling them "sons of bitches" and suggesting they should be fired for "disrespecting the flag."

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who is not known for his liberal views, disputed that players were trying to be disrespectful to the flag: "They're talking about equality issues, making sure that we're doing everything we possibly can to give people an opportunity."

Meanwhile, Kaepernick's actions and the movement he started were lauded by a slew of progressive groups and figures beyond the sports world, including Women's March leader Tamika Mallory and the NAACP. Although Kaepernick and his supporters ultimately clarified that it was not the American flag he was protesting, but rather institutional racism, the flag became a stand-in for ideological debates over patriotism itself.

This isn't the case for the Cuban flag, which has been deployed by both poles of the political spectrum and whose meaning has been perhaps more contested since 1959 than at any other time in Cuba's history.

The Cuban flag does not exclusively represent socialism, Fidel or Ra-l Castro, or anti-communist sentiment. It represents Cubanidad, a sense of belonging to and pride in the experience of being Cuban.

Rep. King had nothing to say when hundreds of Miami Cubans went out into the street waving Cuban flags to celebrate Fidel Castro's death, so I can only assume his decision to mock Gonzalez's deployment of the Cuban flag was a politically motivated attempt to undermine her powerful statements on gun control.

Terre Haute
Overcast
51° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 51°
Robinson
Overcast
51° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 51°
Indianapolis
Overcast
50° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 50°
Rockville
Overcast
46° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 40°
Casey
Overcast
49° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 45°
Brazil
Overcast
51° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 51°
Marshall
Overcast
51° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 51°
A Nice Thanksgiving
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 674089

Reported Deaths: 12261
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook2871246389
DuPage42201754
Will36082532
Lake34915612
Kane29870449
Winnebago17843248
McHenry13332150
Madison13291229
St. Clair12340255
Champaign1031652
Sangamon938390
Peoria8388124
Rock Island8152121
Kankakee799996
McLean786950
Tazewell616992
Macon6121117
Kendall583342
LaSalle5687127
DeKalb471445
Adams449046
Boone364230
Vermilion355344
Whiteside3510100
Williamson332777
Coles316058
Clinton303556
Ogle266026
Knox259956
Grundy253916
Effingham252518
Jackson250334
Henry245313
Stephenson231834
Marion228344
Livingston209521
Randolph205924
Morgan204734
Macoupin198817
Bureau198337
Monroe193144
Franklin187422
Christian177640
Lee172224
Jefferson170859
Woodford158926
Iroquois153325
Logan152412
McDonough151339
Fayette146328
Fulton131910
Douglas126916
Shelby125824
Jersey114923
Union112026
Montgomery105819
Saline105122
Crawford10509
Jo Daviess101816
Warren100620
Carroll100124
Perry96820
Pike96623
Bond93610
Lawrence92410
Hancock90412
Cass90021
Moultrie82810
Wayne82432
Greene77426
Clay75817
Clark74519
Edgar73315
Piatt7215
Ford69821
Mercer67710
Richland67419
Johnson6653
Mason64916
Washington6112
Jasper60511
De Witt58814
Cumberland58013
White5648
Massac5112
Wabash4918
Menard4211
Pulaski3862
Hamilton3663
Marshall3625
Unassigned3620
Brown2983
Henderson2610
Alexander2482
Schuyler2431
Putnam2360
Calhoun2250
Scott2230
Stark2183
Edwards2123
Gallatin1803
Hardin1310
Pope791
Out of IL140

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 306538

Reported Deaths: 5435
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion41953849
Lake26872453
Allen17621295
Elkhart16905219
St. Joseph16524223
Hamilton12696167
Vanderburgh9552115
Tippecanoe844927
Porter813785
Johnson6231165
Vigo597979
Hendricks5944156
Monroe530349
Clark504077
Madison4858121
Delaware4820103
LaPorte457194
Kosciusko455739
Howard334975
Warrick319572
Floyd311477
Bartholomew308462
Wayne301367
Cass295831
Marshall293744
Grant262949
Noble249846
Hancock246551
Boone240254
Henry240237
Dubois234631
Dearborn215730
Jackson212633
Morgan204443
Gibson181725
Knox181419
Shelby178254
Clinton177821
Lawrence174047
DeKalb172829
Adams166422
Wabash158020
Miami157814
Daviess154643
Fayette147733
Steuben143513
Jasper142111
Harrison141824
LaGrange140129
Montgomery139027
Whitley133412
Ripley128114
Decatur124643
Huntington123510
Putnam123027
Randolph120719
Wells120428
White120321
Clay119822
Posey119616
Jefferson116216
Scott103219
Greene101353
Jay96413
Starke90621
Sullivan88916
Fulton83518
Jennings83214
Spencer8198
Perry81521
Fountain7738
Washington7417
Franklin68626
Carroll67913
Orange66628
Vermillion5993
Owen5987
Parke5606
Newton55312
Tipton55226
Rush5317
Blackford51912
Pike50318
Pulaski37710
Martin3515
Benton3362
Brown3353
Crawford2881
Union2671
Switzerland2555
Warren2382
Ohio2307
Unassigned0266