The Man Who Threw The American Flag In the Trash Can

My 11th grade teacher, Robert Hoderny changed my thinking

'bumpyjonas…

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Robert Hoderny — Photo — Archbishop Carroll High School

Robert Hoderny, one of my many great high school teachers, threw the American flag in the trash can one class. One of my fellow students got up and pulled it out. But he threw it in the trash again.

He also burned money in class. Twenty dollar bills. More than once.

He stood up on the top of his desk at times like Robin Williams would later do in the film, Dead Poets Society.

He always made his point.

His class was called Social Justice. It was described as a “religion” class at my high school, Archbishop Carroll High School, in Washington D.C. All students at the then all boys high school steeped in the Augustinian Order had to take his class as part of the religion requirements.

His course topics: Mahatma Gandhi and non-violence. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Vietnam War. War. Poverty. Racism. Nuclear War.

Robert Hoderny like my parents, like my siblings, and like the people of my community and city in Washington D.C. shaped my thinking about the world. But, Hoderny shaped my thinking most of all about America and patriotism.

When he threw the flag in the trashcan I can’t say I was outraged because I wasn’t. I didn’t think America was trash. I just thought if he wanted to throw the flag in the trash, he was the teacher, what was I to do?

But I did begin to wonder why he did it. I wondered what he wanted us to consider. I was a young Black kid by then and because of racism I had begun to ask questions anyway based on how I was treated by the police and others.

I grew up in a home where political discussions were welcome. This was the same for the city I grew up in — Washington D.C. African American issues were discussed every day in my home and city. Political and social issues as well.

My parents read the morning newspapers and other newspapers. The Vietnam War was on television when I was a kid and my father talked about it.

Mr. Hoderny (Rob, as he insisted we call him) told us (and me especially) that America was on the wrong side in the war. We…

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'bumpyjonas…

barrister for the damned. born in a city made of chocolate