Editor-in-Chief Farewell: Shyla Lensing

Shyla Lensing

In Bark’s newsroom, there’s been a lot of discussion about the American flag – about its meaning, purpose and its representation of U.S. citizens. We question whether it’s a symbol of patriotism or ostracism. But, what even is patriotism? 

We tried to define it in my very first Bark editorial (Modernizing Patriotism), but my vote didn’t go toward it. In fact, I was loudly and aggressively against the editorial. I hated that it would be a reflection of our newsroom and by proxy, a reflection of me. 

Photo by Lauren Poulin

I stood by my rejection of the flag through high school, writing my Advanced Placement Seminar paper about American pride’s xenophobia, fighting against U.S. spirit days in Leadership and of course, voicing in Bark that patriotism would always exclude minorities. But, through my anger, Bark still welcomed me. Although my nose twitched when I saw the editorial in print, the acceptance in that conversation gave me the encouragement to pursue the narratives that I felt the media and America misrepresented. 

It was through such narratives that I met unforgettable students, activists and community members who allowed me to tell pieces of their stories. I had the opportunity to write about pressing social issues along with other Barkies who have taken on similar topics with their own magnifying glasses, compiling the stories of the untold. As a journalist who grew into considering all these perspectives, the Modernizing Patriotism editorial stayed with me. 

A couple of months ago, I stood in Arlington National Cemetery, watching as my grandmother clutched the folded burial flag at my grandpa’s military funeral. With a full band playing Taps, a three-volley salute and flags everywhere, the ceremony recognized my Papa for his selflessness and kindness, in saving someone on the battlefield in Vietnam and in smaller moments, like playing Scrabble with me. I suddenly understood how the flag could represent honor and glory, despite its meaning of fear and exclusion for some. In doing so, I finally understood Bark’s words – that patriotism is a fluid, one-size-fits-none concept.

As the flag waves now, I see many sides, from my Papa’s glowing smile to the white supremacy rallies that strike fear in my heart. I’m still unraveling my thoughts today: I’m cautious around the flag because I have not forgotten its prejudice, but I’m also open to understanding its context for others. I think that that right there is everything Bark represents – challenging our community to think differently about the things we always thought we knew. So, I thank you Bark. For allowing me a space for my beliefs, offering me a platform to tell the stories that often go lost, but most of all, for encouraging me to listen, grow and consider life from a new perspective. 


Until next time,