There has been much controversy regarding the NFL players (and others) decision to take a knee, stay in the locker rooms, or worse yet sit on the ground doing whatever they feel like doing while the National Anthem is playing. Why the controversy? Aren’t we free to protest in any peaceful way we deem fit? Isn’t it better to do something peaceful instead of rioting or worse? Haven’t we seen a great explanation for why this all started in the first place? Doesn’t the flag represent that right? If so, why are people upset over what seems to be a peaceful way to protest the problems they see within our country?
I can only tell you why I am upset over this, but perhaps you may feel the same way.
Here is what I understand… people are upset over injustices that occur in our nation. They look at the flag and they see oppression and a government who doesn’t care about their struggles or the injustices that occur. They want to fight against the oppression and injustice they believe are happening. This is their peaceful solution for taking a stand- by kneeling during the National Anthem or before the flag instead of standing to honor our country.
I can appreciate a peaceful stand for what you believe in. I will readily admit that there are injustices in our nation that need to be remedied. However, I still think that our nation is one of the greatest in the world and that there is so much to celebrate as we work together to change what needs to be changed. And it is in this light that I view the American flag and the reason why I am offended by taking a knee during the National Anthem or through the blatant disrespect that other groups have had for our flag and our nation.
The way I see it the claim that our country is not good is simply ridiculous. There is goodness in the police officers, firemen, military members, and others emergency workers who are willing to put their lives on the line without regard to their own safety each and every day to protect our nation- both at the local level and the national level. There is goodness in the hearts and actions of those who go overseas to help other nations under the flag of the United States. There is goodness in the everyday citizen who strives to help his fellow neighbor just get through the tough times. There is so much good in this country. The flag symbolizes this goodness. Does that mean that everything is always good or that there is nothing to be changed? No, but it does mean that goodness has prevailed in this great nation.
The flag represents those who have died before us to protect our liberties and freedoms. It represents those who are willing to die now to protect those same liberties and freedoms. But the flag doesn’t solely represent those who have died or are willing to die for our country. Instead it also represents each and every one of the American citizens, past and present, who has worked and continues to work to make our country an amazing place to live.
Within its stars and stripes are the faces of the lineman, the trash men, the teachers, the welders, the electricians, the miners, the nurses, the doctors, the daycare workers, the bankers, the cashiers, the farmers, the truckers, the computer programmers, the factory line workers, the mechanics, the gardeners, the scientists, the social workers, and every other worker who tirelessly strives to ensure that our country can function and thrive. It represents those who take care of the homeless, the impoverished, the weak, and the unwanted. It represents the everyday heroes who simply want to do the right thing and who live their lives striving to do just that. By kneeling instead of standing in pride for the people who do the right thing day in and day out, you say that all those people who have work so hard to make this a great country where you do have the right to protest, don’t matter. You say my father, who laid down his life for our country, doesn’t matter. You say my husband, who puts his life on the line each and every day for your safety, doesn’t matter. You say my friends, who teach your children, who make your food, and who take care of your sick mother or your dying child, don’t matter. You say that I, who strives to bring love and joy to the world and who works tirelessly to help those who have the least, don’t matter.
I simply can’t support you as you tell me that all the people in our country who are working to make a difference don’t matter.
I will stand proudly beside you to honor the flag and all it represents, but I will never kneel in solidarity with you before the flag. The only time I will kneel when the flag is present is if my knees have given out beneath me in pain and despair at the loss of the hero who lies beneath the flag or if I am gingerly scooping up a flag that has been mistreated and is on the ground. Both times I would gladly kneel, tears in my eyes, and honor the flag.
I support your right to peacefully protest, I truly do. But there are other ways to protest. Those who kneel at the Anthem instead of standing absolutely have the right to do so. The heroes who have died protecting the flag certainly have given them the right to protest in that manner. However, I am saying I believe you to be wrong in the manner in which you do protest.
Why should we respect our flag? Because our flag symbolizes the best our nation has given in the past, continues to give now, and will give in the future. It is not a symbol of white America, but instead is a symbol of a tapestry of colors that built this nation and that continues to help it thrive, prosper, and grow.
And for that I will always stand proudly before our American Flag.