As an esteemed Clare alumnus, my Facebook this morning was littered with news that a dispute between certain elements of the student body and the college leadership had come to an head today. Clare, you see, has been perfectly happy, during “LGBT History Month”, to hang some rainbow flags at college entrances, and this year were even kind enough to fork out for some rainbow-coloured bunting for the path between Old Court and Queens Road. Any reasonable person, or anybody with even a whiff of a sense of proportion, would think that these gestures were quite nice, and basically as much as was reasonable to expect from the college – after all, Clare doesn’t fly national flags on national days, or anything like that; rather, the flags flown from the Old Court mast are fairly regulated by mandates, which includes the Union Flag on certain royal occasions. There is no St George’s Cross on the 23rd of April, no Saltire on St Andrew’s Day – they even refused my request to fly the Bionicle flag in protest at Lego’s decision not to revive the line. So flying a rainbow flag from the pole, for an entire month (albeit a short one), is actually quite a big ask, and not a reasonable one. If anything, the displays which the college did do seemed more than reasonable.
But of course not. The UCS (Clare’s JCR) President, outraged at the college’s arrogance (how dare they presume not to give into out demands!), sent an e-mail round to the student body, bemoaning the disgraceful decision of the college leadership. “That the Union flag flies during royal occasions but the Pride Flag does not fly during LGBT+ History Month is a source of hurt for many of us at Clare,” he wrote to the quivering, quaking, undergraduates. After all, the Union flag is “inseparable from the darker parts of this country’s past, like… [muh] Empire and slavery.” Yes, the United Kingdom and her predecessors have never been run by angels, but you struggle to detect much of a point to all this. We colonised Australia, therefore we have to fly the LGBT+ flag? I’m sorry, but I don’t quite follow.
The whole thing came to an head this morning when two third year students decided that enough was enough. Like a modern day Glezos and Santas, they scaled the roof of Old Court at dawn and hoisted the flag, before then posing for pictures, because this is 2020, not 1941. What was the reasoning of these two brave souls? "We were sick of college taking a hypocritical and anachronistic stance on whether or not showing visible support for our LGBT+ staff, students, colleagues and friends was negotiable." There is no argument. There is no reason to disagree. There is no correct way not to give into our demands. You will fly this flag, you will fly it where we want, you will fly it how we want, you will fly it for as long as we want. This wasn’t a brave act of defiance against the evil fascist Jackie Tasioulas, this was a totalitarian act, done not in revolt, but with the disposition of an occupying power.
And after all this, the college finally folded. The porters came to take the flag down, only then to be ordered by the college to re-hoist it on the pole where it will spend the rest of February, and presumably every February hereafter. Or in reality, whenever a bunch of undergraduate decide it should be flown. And what next month? Will the college hang up a pair of fuzzy dice for National Gambling Awareness Month? Will April see them fly a flag for autism? On May the Fourth will they fly a flag with a big Darth Vader mask? If they don’t, they can expect a very strongly-worded petition, and to wake up to see it flying anyway! Clare now belongs to a cabal of students burning with the fires of self-righteousness. By their own admission, they no longer negotiate, they just act, and in giving into them, the college has opened the floodgates to all manner of zealotry and humiliation. May the Fourth be with you!