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The Journal Gazette

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Ron Flickinger

Sunday, September 24, 2017 1:00 am

Golden Pen: August

About the author

Ron Flickinger, whose letter appearedAug. 5, has been selected as last month's Golden Pen Award winner. In the judgment of the editors, he had the most effective letter to the editor during August.

Flickinger is the retired director of career/technical education at Anthis Career Center, though he still works part time through Anthis. Flickinger and his wife of 49 years, Sheryl (their 50th anniversary is in January) are the parents of three children: Tracy of Indianapolis; Marcy of Cape Girardeau, Missouri; and Jonathan, a Fort Wayne firefighter.

The North Side and University of Montana graduate allows that he “took some heat for” his stance on his alma mater's nickname change. But he explains his conviction in the repugnance of the “Redskin” nickname was forged through reading, through listening (particularly to a student who expressed misgivings about the mascot while Flickinger was her guidance counselor), and through his direct witnessing of racism. Two indelible experiences, Flickinger said, were the subhuman treatment of Indians he saw in Montana, and the abuse heaped on a black friend at a bar during Army training in Georgia.

“It has a bit of an impact,” he said.

Flickinger received a gold-plated inscribed pen for his efforts. The Golden Pen Award was established to express our appreciation for the contributions our letter writers make to the editorial page.

Replacing North Side mascot was an act of courage, honor

I just read the letter by Stephen Beights, a 1964 North Side graduate, extolling the “Redskin” mascot (July 20). I am also a North Sider (1962) with a rich North Side history: My wife and three children graduated from North; I worked there as a guidance counselor for 10 years; and I was on the North Side Alumni Association Board of Directors for about 15 years, serving as editor and writer of the alumni newsletter. As a part of the duties on the newsletter, I had the privilege of seeking out and writing about a lot of phenomenal people who graduated from North and was always extremely proud to have been a fellow alum of these great people – of whom I am sure Beights is one.

I also have a long history of actual and vicarious interaction with Native American culture. My mother was born on the Hopi reservation in northern Arizona as my grandparents were teachers in the U.S. Indian Service; I graduated from the University of Montana where, in 1969, I experienced white racism toward members of the Salish tribe that at the time I thought was akin to Nazi attitudes toward the Jews in the 1930s; I have taken graduate coursework on the history of Native Americans; and in my mind, most importantly, have read everything written by Sherman Alexie, a gifted communicator whose works, based upon his own indigenous experiences, scream at the inhumane treatment and utter destruction of the Native American culture that continues to this day.

I just finished his latest work, a memoir to his mother entitled “You Don't Have to Say You Love Me” in which, through both prose and poetry, he laments not just her passing but the very personal and current human devastation that was and is still wrought upon an entire race at the hands of people just like me. I am sure my negative response to Beights' letter is directly connected to the influence of Alexie's passionate book.

I wish I could fix the things done to Native Americans, but I cannot. What I can do is applaud and celebrate the people in the Fort Wayne Community Schools who had the courage to take that racist name attached to North Side and bury it. That is something that should have been done years ago. It was not political correctness that motivated those folks, but an act based upon the realities of history. I am thankful there were those who, in spite of the tremendous pressure of tradition, made a decision based upon those realities.

Speaking of realities, I am most concerned by Beights' suggestion that the Native Americans he knows feel the name “Redskin” honors the indigenous culture. Perhaps he should read about the Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding schools developed in the 1930s where children were ripped from their homes and beaten if they did anything that reflected that very culture he wants to honor. The idea that we are honoring a culture that we destroyed by using the very terminology the destroyers used would seem to me to be a classic example of hypocrisy endemic to the human race. Our human nature is to be hypocritical to justify our poor behavior; therefore, our responsibility should be to seek truth to combat that particular defect in our nature. I would suggest a deeper study of truth would lead more and more to support the demise of North Side's former mascot.

Of course, to be perfectly honest, a high school mascot has to be absolutely one of the most insignificant aspects of anyone's life; I can't believe there are two of us writing about it.