Fort Collins High's 'Merica Day: A USA tribute, an insult to patriots or media knee-jerking?
We're all familiar with how quickly small matters can become national controversies these days -- and the twists, turns and craziness around a Fort Collins High School spirit week proposal for what was originally called "'Merica Day" is a case in point. The school initially rejected the idea for a variety of reasons that are getting more unclear with each passing hour. But after Fox News and other conservative outlets cried foul, it's been reinstated, albeit as "America Day," with that missing "A" in place. How did the event become so politicized? The usual way....
According to the Fort Colins Coloradoan, assorted FCHS student council members say their proposal for "'Merica Day" was originally nixed by administrators because they felt it would exclude international students.
Fort Collins High School.
The council then countered by suggesting "My Country Monday." But members maintain that, too, was given a thumbs-down...at least until the story began to get traction among conservative media types such as Fox News commentator Todd Starnes, who wrote a blistering piece about the issue entitled "You Can't Celebrate America, School Says."
Also highly offended by the supposed ban was Alex Jones, of Infowars.com fame. Here's a video of his invective, including his pronunciation of "'Merica Day" as what sounds like "Mercy-a Day."
At that point, the spinning began in earnest. Below, we've reproduced a statement from the Poudre School District in its entirety. But among officials' explanations for not going along with the idea in the first place was that "Merica is a slang term that is often used in a negative, stereotypical way to describe life in the United States."
This claim definitely has merit: Plenty of folks in recent years have roughened up their voices and declared, "'Merica!" as a way of mocking ultra-patriots whose love of country seems to have crossed the line into mania. And the idea that FCHS students actually wanted to make fun of loving America rather than salute it has been given credence in some quarters. Here's one Facebook post we found that expresses this viewpoint:
The term 'Merica' is used when people make fun of 'rednecks' and 'hicks' and typically is shown online with fat, slovenly, Americans.... And the students planned this. They were hoping to get it through and then have entire day dedicated to trashing Americans.... Then the adults came out and said the ban was to keep from offending foreigners for us celebrating our country...then they backpedaled again and said they figured out the 'Merica' plan and made them change the name and do it right....
It's a huge, sad mess and commentary on what type of children this town is raising and what they're learning about America from our public schools/teachers, their parents and the community.
THIS is what leftist indoctrination in our public school system creates. Just think for a moment what things would be like if these selfish, self-absorbed, elitist, spoiled children did something kind and good for America???
Of course, plenty of other students have come out and said "'Merica Day" wasn't mean to be offensive in the slightest, even if the original notion was a bit of a goof. For instance, Christian Meyer told 7News the concept was playfully referencing "the whole 'Merica kind of tough America patriotism thing."
He added that the uproar strikes him as "a little crazy. Most of my friends and I, we're mainly kind of sitting back and just watching this unfold. It's real interesting because we don't have too strong of an opinion on it. We think it's a little bit political correctness on one side, and a little bit out-of-control patriotism on the other."
Whatever the case, public figures such as Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith quickly took up the "'Merica Day" cause. In a long Facebook post also shared below, Smith argues that "all Americans should be outraged by this situation," and he took part in a protest at the school as a way of backing up these words with action.
After the latter, Smith thanked those who joined him. "You made a difference," he wrote, adding, "The school district retreated on their stance against a patriotic-themed spirit day."
Indeed, Monday at FCHS will now be "America Day."
You can bet there will be plenty of TV cameras on hand a few days from now in an effort to discern if FCHS flag-wavers are being ironic or not. And if students don't appear to be patriotic enough, expect Fox News to notice.
Here's a CBS4 report about the issue, followed by statements from the Poudre School District and Sheriff Justin Smith.
Poudre School District statement:
We regret that the recent decision regarding My Country Monday was viewed as unpatriotic. This could not be further from the truth. The original intent of Spirit Week at Fort Collins High School was to unify the student body.
When students first proposed Merica Monday, building administrators felt that it was against this unifying theme and disrespectful to our country. Merica is a slang term that is often used in a negative, stereotypical way to describe life in the United States. This is what led administrators to discuss alternatives with students.
We were surprised that our community interpreted these actions as anti-American. Fort Collins High School is a proud public school in America and supports many activities to celebrate this great nation. Due to this outpouring of sentiment and misinterpretation of intentions, school administrators have decided to change the first day of Spirit Week to America Day instead of Merica Day.
Sheriff Justin Smith.
Sheriff Justin Smith statement:
All Americans Should Be Outraged By This Situation:
This kind of anti-American attitude by some in leadership in our educational system is why there has become such a distrust between citizens and many in the current educational establishment.
All too often, there has become an effort to divide Americans bases on ethnic, social or economic differences, in this case by their national origin, when the wonder of America is truly our cultural melting pot. In nearly every other nation in the world, if you immigrated from another country, you would forever be considered an outsider, however, in America, we welcome new Americans, no matter where they came from.
Most adults grew up in a time when our establishments supported the concept of one America, united. I don't believe that residents will stand for this kind of America divided attitude in our schools. It's obvious that many of the students at FCHS recognized the deviance of this way of thinking.
We are lucky this time, lucky that this abhorrent way of thinking was uncovered and has been brought out into the light of day. It gives students and their community an opportunity to take action. However, the bigger concern brought to light is the fact that this kind of attitude exists in some in leadership in our schools. We must not allow that to continue. I would hope that residents would flood the next PSD School Board meeting on February 11 and express their feelings about this situation and what a threat it represents.
I would not be surprised to see FCHS ringed with residents proudly waving Old Glory, to demonstrate to our children the values that average, everyday, patriotic Americans have- We are PROUD to be Americans and always will be!
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
More from our News archive circa January 2013: "Justin Smith, Larimer County sheriff, says he won't enforce 'unconstitutional' gun laws."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Westword's biggest stories.