English teacher Scott Compton, in the context of what his attorney Darryl Smalls describes as a “lesson in symbolism,” reportedly stomped on an American flag during three honors classes at Chapin High School in mid-December. According to Smalls, Compton was “trying to show (that) America is greater than its national emblem.”
There are folks in Chapin, however, whose outrage over Compton’s attention-getting device might lead one to believe that America is its national emblem. I can only speculate as to whether they’d have us believe also that the universe was created in three days by a dog-eared copy of the King James Bible.
Compton, who is on leave without pay, was excoriated last night at a meeting of the Lexington-Richland School District Five Board of Trustees during which concerned citizen Linda Larrson-Wheeler called what he did “a grotesque display of misjudgement” and Scott Sheely of Irmo called it “contemptible and disgusting.”
At that same meeting, veteran Tom Fincher observed that the American flag “is not a piece of cloth — it is in the marrow in our bones and planted in our hearts.”
Compton has until January 24 to appeal the termination of his seven-year tenure recommended by superintent Stephen Hefner.
Misty-eyed veterans carrying on about how they love the flag is one thing, even if doing so seems to miss the point of their service entirely. Misty-eyed veterans advocating that real harm be done to real people as punishment for what they perceive to be mistreatment of that flag is quite another. It is, to quote Larrson-Wheeler, “a grotesque display of misjudgement.” To quote Sheely, it’s “contemptible and disgusting.”
I don’t know anything more about Compton than what I read about him this morning at TheState.com, but I think it’s safe to assume that he knew there’d be Hell to pay. To that extent, maybe what appears to have been an act of self-immolation actually was an attempt to telegraph his “lesson in symbolism” beyond the classroom to the community. Maybe, when the dust has settled and the flag hags have calmed down, Compton will be remembered as an instigator of constructive public discourse who forced us to consider the dangers of emphasizing form over substance and symbolism over the things that our symbols only represent.
Or maybe he’ll just get fired.