This article first appeared on The Morgan Post’s Facebook page on September 26, 2017. In light of the recent murder of George Floyd, it is being reposted here:
It’s a sad commentary about the American psyche to realize that so many people are more concerned about athletes kneeling during the National Anthem than about the reasons why these players have decided to kneel.
Some have labeled this action as un-American and an insult to our military personnel. Yet many veterans are going on record as supporting the right to protest because that is one of our cherished privileges under the First Amendment. Never the less, Facebook and Twitter have lit up in outrage over this perceived lack of patriotism and disrespect of our country, our flag and our vets.
The truth is, protesting is messy and uncomfortable — that’s why it is called a protest. And if you think this particular one is about being anti American or an affront to our nation, then you’re not seeing the big picture and are part of the problem. Because it’s not about the flag, it’s not about the anthem, it’s not even about disrespect; rather, it’s about how minorities in this country continue to be treated by those in authority.
You don’t have to be black to understand why African Americans feel disenfranchised over too many incidences of racial profiling, unprovoked killings by some cops, and prison sentences handed down for crimes that often net white criminals shorter sentences or probation. In fact, you can still be white and know that little improvement has been made regarding racial tensions and know that despite civil rights laws on the books, injustices still prevail.
Meanwhile, the division grows as President Trump stokes the racial divide by failing to call out Neo Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville, and then describing NFL athletes as “sons of bitches” who need to be fired. Even on Facebook, life-long friendships are not surviving the firestorm that has ensued.
So here are my proposals to so-called patriotic Americans who want to define what it means to be a patriotic American:
Since the favorite mantra seems to be about how these athletes are disrespecting our military, how about supporting our soldiers where it really counts – not in hands over hearts while standing, but by paying them above average wages.
Next, contact your senators and representatives and demand that our vets get decent medical care, particularly when they return from war.
Also, insist that all of our soldiers be given a free higher education, no matter when they enlisted or how many years they have served.
While we’re at it, how about educating yourselves on exactly what freedoms our soldiers are fighting for, starting with the First Amendment – a constitutional right to protest and voice your opposition and your beliefs. Without the right to do that, then you might as well go live in China, Iran or North Korea.
Finally, my questions to all of those who want to dictate how a true American is supposed to act when our flag is waved or our anthem sung: where were you when the Neo Nazis and white supremacists were marching down Charlottesville streets? Where was your anger over the president’s failure to address the racism that led to a protester’s death? And why are you not troubled by Trump stating that there are good people on both sides? Because anything short of outrage is a failure of patriotism to the nth degree. In fact, racism and anti-Semitism are the exact opposite of what it means to be patriotic.
Demanding respect and defining patriotism are two things our men and women in uniform tend to be against. My father served 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, defending our Constitutional freedoms, including the right to protest. He and the men he served with – and the men and women serving now – would tell you that patriotism should never be legislated, dictated or defined. That’s not patriotism – that’s communism – and it’s definitely un-American. This freedom to take to the streets, or in this case kneel, is why our military serves, fights, and sometimes dies for.
If such actions as kneeling while the anthem is played make you uncomfortable, then good – message received. Injustice should always make people squirm and spur us into action. Short of that, tensions build and the outcome is often a regrettable one. Or as John F. Kennedy once said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”
The truth of the matter is, our country was birthed and founded on protest. It’s the American way. That means not getting to pick and choose what our fellow citizens protest about. Disrespectful or not, we must all remember that our flag is a symbol of freedom, liberty and self-determination that grants each of us the inalienable right to #TakeaKnee.