By: Steve Sexton / The California Patriot
Friday, September 06, 2002

School-sponsored 9-11 Remembrance Day to exclude patriotic symbols and religious references.

        The "Star Spangled Banner" is too patriotic, divisive and political, so organizers of UC Berkeley's day-long tribute to the victims and heroes of  9-11 are excluding it. "God Bless America" is doubly excluded. Not only is it patriotic, but it also mentions God, something else that is taboo next Wednesday.

      The Sept. 11 Day of Remembrance, sponsored by the Chancellor's office, the student body government and the Graduate Assembly, will also feature student leaders distributing white ribbons, instead of the red, white and blue ones they had originally planned. "We thought that may be just too political, too patriotic," said Hazel Wong, chief organizer for the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC). "We didn't want anything too centered on nationalism-anything that is 'Go U.S.A.'" Wong said the event organizers are "trying to steer away" from anything political, and that, she said, includes singing the National Anthem and displaying the red, white, and blue. She said they don't want politics disrupting mourning and grieving.

      "To hold a Sept. 11 memorial service devoid of patriotism is counterintuitive," said Mark Engberg, a UC Berkeley freshman. "Holding a service without patriotism is like holding a presidential debate without mentioning politics. It doesn't work." Jessica Quindel, president of the Graduate Assembly, a key player in the planning, said the day's events are about more than just grieving. She said the day is, in fact, about politics. And it's not just about Sept. 11, but also the aftermath, including President Bush's response to the terrorist attacks.

      "We are trying to stay away from supporting Bush," Quindel said. "We don't want to isolate people on this campus who disagree with the reaction to Sept. 11." Quindel, a self avowed hater of the American Flag, the federal government, and the "Star Spangled Banner," said she is still patriotic. "It depends on your definition of patriotism. Everyone has a different definition," she said.Patriotic songs may exclude and offend people, Quindel said, "because there are so many people who don't agree with the songs." "God Bless America" is "very exclusive" because it mentions God, she said.

      Though plans call for four university music and song groups to perform at an evening vigil, not a single patriotic song will be sung, at the behest of organizers. Instead, songs of remembrance will be offered up. Also, to prevent the exclusion of those who don't believe in the American Flag, there will be no tribute to the flag. "The flag has become a symbol of U.S. aggression towards other countries. It seems hostile," Quindel said.Quindel will be one of two people selecting speakers for short speeches by students during a noontime event on Memorial Glade. Students must pre-register indicating the topic of the comments they wish to make-classifying them into categories of mourning, religious and political.

      That system doesn't wash with Robb McFadden, director of the California College Republicans. "If Quindel and her Marxist comrades are selecting the speakers, I think there are serious violations of fundamental  fairness," he said. "How can we expect freedom of speech to be filtered through such a radical political ideologue?"

      Scheduled speakers at the Memorial Glade assembly include Chancellor Robert Berdahl, ASUC President Jesse Gabriel, and Quindel. They will likely speak, according to Wong, about peace. Those who aren't selected to speak by Quindel and her undergraduate counterpart, Gabriel, will have an opportunity to speak at an open  microphone assembly ln the evening. But if last year's open microphone assembly on the night the attacks occurred is any guide, there will likely not be an opportunity for patriotic speech Wednesday. At last Sept. 11's vigil, members of the Berkeley College Republicans were shouted down while speaking of patriotism.

      The primary planner for Chancellor Berdahl, Colleen Rovetti, director of university events and ceremonies, said she did not know avoiding patriotism was an overriding objective of the student planners. She echoed remarks by other organizers stressing their intent to make the event a memorial and not a protest. Gabriel said organizers aim to "separate political beliefs from mourning." "Singing 'God Bless America' may prompt people to shout it down," he said. Similar fears of aggression toward the flag prompted Berkeley's fire chief to order American flags removed from fire trucks. City leaders worried protesters would attack the flag and comprise firefighters' ability to do their job. After national outcry, the flags were returned to the fire trucks.

      Members of the Berkeley College Republicans attended the student senate meeting last night to urge their elected leaders to alter the plans for the Sept. 11 memorial to include patriotic themes. "If we leave patriotism and religion out of this event, we'd be reducing the memorial to a bunch of anti-American whining, said Republican ASUC   Senator Paul LaFata. "Patriotism has a place on this campus, and by excluding it, the ASUC has done exactly what they wanted to avoid. They have offended students."

      The Republicans were countered by those supporting the decision of the event organizers. The decision's proponents argued that patriotism leads to nationalism. They also said patriotism would exclude students who are not American citizens.

      Quindel said it would be inappropriate for the university to endorse patriotic themes, and urged students to express their views at the open microphone sessions.