Seal of Disapproval

Who are those two dudes, anyway?

Raise your hand if you’ve given a lot of thought to the official seal of the University of New Mexico. I know I haven’t, until I recently learned that a lot of UNM students think the thing really sucks.

The school's seal has two people on it. Go ahead and try to guess who they are. I'll wait.

Mary and Joseph?

Starsky and Hutch?

Abercrombie and Fitch?

Ike and Tina Turner?

Lyin' Ted and Little Marco?

Sorry, those are all swell guesses, but they're wrong. The dudes on the seal are a buckskinned frontiersman and an armored conquistador. Seriously.

I have to ask: Weren't there some other people living here before the conquistadors and frontiersmen arrived? I know nobody did more for higher education in New Mexico than the conquistadors, but you still have to wonder what these guys are doing alone on the seal, without a Native American in sight.

By the way, the seal also displays a Latin phrase, Lux hominum vita, which I believe means, "The governor would like more pizza."

Not for nothing, but a sizable slab of this state's population can't look at a frontiersman holding a rifle or an ironclad conquistador holding a sword without reflecting on what they used those things for.

If you think about it, this is exactly like if the Charles Manson family invaded your home and slaughtered everybody you love in a helter-skelter orgy of blood lust, and in spite of that, they got to be in your Christmas card photo, and you couldn't do anything about it.

Frankly, this issue doesn't totally surprise me, from a school that ironically calls its sports teams the Lobos, even though the state has been doing its best to drive its real lobos into extinction.

Some Native American students have been pissed off about the seal for a long time, and now they've posted an online petition demanding the school get rid of it. The petition says UNM "has one of the highest populations of Native students in the Western Hemisphere currently, and it's seal continues to make a mockery of it's Native students and the surrounding Native community."

I feel like I should stop here and offer the student who wrote that sentence some guidance on the difference between "its" and "it's," but that might seem insensitive, so I won't.

The irate students have even created their own version of the seal, showing the frontiersman and conquistador standing on a pile of human skulls and branded with the inscription, "WHAT INDIANS?"

By now, you're probably saying, "But Bob, this seal probably dates back hundreds of years, to when people didn't know any better." I'm sorry, it doesn't. The seal was updated in 1969, when people did know better.

That was a period called the '60s, and it was all about righting old wrongs and being culturally sensitive. Except in New Mexico, where apparently it was about adding insult to injury and reminding Native Americans why their ancestors didn't live to a ripe old age.

The angry students correctly point out that these days, old, offensive symbols are being retired right and left, all around us. Confederate flags are disappearing over much of the South, and Harvard's law school is getting rid of its seal with ties to a slave-owning family, so maybe we could do some similar housekeeping.

You may also be saying, "But Bob, it's just a school seal. How often will these crybaby students have to look at it, anyway?"

That's a fair question, and the answer is, every single time they look at their diploma, for the rest of their lives. That's how often.

Robert Basler’s humor column runs every other week in SFR. Email the author:

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