For a discussion that lasted formally over a year at Goshen College, and certainly longer through much of Anabaptist history, an e-mail in my inbox seemed an abrupt ending to the national anthem discussion on campus. Of course, that e-mail wasn’t the end.In that e-mail, President Jim Brenneman urged students, faculty and community to continue the conversation, and today announced a formal outlet for that discussion this Monday.
Chances are that Monday’s discussion will also not be the end.
There was never a point throughout the last year, after Mike Gallagher’s publicity over a year ago of Goshen’s choice to not play the anthem, that I thought the college would be able to create a policy that satisfied everyone. The debates immediately following that controversy were often heated—comments on local news Web sites grew long with many angry remarks, similar to the comments on the opinion board in the Union.
At the same time, many students were introduced to why the college didn’t play the anthem and others to why many Mennonites and other Christians do passionately sing the anthem.
Unfortunately, while several people have said that playing an instrumental version of the Star-Spangled Banner seems an appropriate compromise, this situation seems especially difficult in that even a compromise doesn’t satisfy many people’s thoughts on the issue. For many, the instrumental version to be played at games still shows too much loyalty to the country, while for others, it is still not enough.
I’m interested to see where conversations now head, nearly a week after the President’s Council’s decision. Richard Aguirre, director of pubic relations, said that President Brenneman and the President’s Council will “facilitate discussion on ways Goshen College can enhance its peace witness.”
Hopefully, that peace witness will begin on campus with each other, somehow respecting the differing opinions around campus, and coming to some understanding that won’t leave many feeling frustrated, appalled and unheard.