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Why we stand for our flag

| Monday, September 18, 2017

We have just entered that glorious time of year when you can spend all hours of your weekend watching football. Gone is the need to invent excuses to procrastinate, that’s a non-football season problem. What’s more, the storylines continue from Sunday to Sunday. The NFL dominates sports news and even regular news. This we knew. What we didn’t know was that some players would take for granted the attention of millions of Americans in a way deeply antithetical to our national spirit. They would not stand in recognition of the flag during the national anthem.

It is indeed within these players’ First Amendment right to not stand for the American flag. I understand, for example, Colin Kaepernick’s decision to not stand for the flag. He knew that his platform was powerful and wide reaching, and that his actions would dominate the news cycle. But that assumes that the media would take the opportunity to thoughtfully discuss a significant issue, instead of fight for control of a narrative. Today’s media is not the best example of civic responsibility. For this reason, Kaepernick should have taken time outside of football to articulate an argument for, say, how the historical legacy of slavery still influences the economic and social mobility of African Americans. Such a statement would have also made its way onto the ticker tape at ESPN, not to mention CNN, Fox and others. But to argue that Kaepernick’s actions are acceptable in the context of the national anthem because he is simply exercising his right to free expression misses the point of why we encourage people to stand. To analogize, we encourage respectful language despite the fact that technically, you could speak in a disrespectful and offensive manner to anyone and at any time.

In the same way, we encourage actions befitting the national anthem’s occasion. We do not stand in recognition of the flag because we think America has fulfilled her lofty ideals. We do not stand in recognition of the flag because we are blind to the problems which plague our time. And we certainly do not stand in recognition of the flag for personal gain and attention. We stand because we feel a duty to remember those who have sacrificed for our nation. It is a testament to the brave men and women in uniform that we still enjoy freedoms such as speech and that we take for granted the ability to watch hours of football on Sundays. We stand because we recognize the great hope and optimism we can have as Americans. America is far from infallible, but the world is a better place because she exists. We stand because this hope draws its power from unifying occasions like the national anthem. There are few moments at which we can all come together, and these moments should not just be in times of crisis or tragedy. These moments are, and should be, during the sporting events we attend. We also remove our hats in the same way you would remove your hat in places of worship or at a funeral. As with faith and funerals, the occasion of the national anthem requires a high order of respect.

To capture the spirit of this column’s argument in a quote from Joshua, “I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” Standing for the national anthem shows that we share values which transcend ourselves; that for all the disagreement and conflict, we can unite in remembrance and optimism for the future. If we do not stand to recognize the sacrifices of our honored dead and draw from this exercise unity and hope, we will have lost the spirit of our country. Indeed, we cannot overcome the challenges we now face without this understanding. We must stand for something so that we do not end up falling for nothing.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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  • Jw

    it’s true that an nfl game is the same as a funeral. i actually think that mourning the loss of a loved one is less dignified than spending $90 to watch grown men get closer to degenerative brain disease. look,, if you sit at an nfl game it’s the same as shooting off fireworks at a funeral and there isn’t any discussion. if you kneel during the anthem at nfl games, how are nfl teams going to continue to get paid millions by the department of defense department for putting on much needed shows of patriotism? without that money owners might never be able to convince local governments to give them additionally vital millions of dollars so that they can rebuild 15 year old stadiums. kneeling during an nfl game could even signal a crucial lack of support that might cause our government not to endeavor into highly crucial wars of intervention that help spread american ideals to worse off parts of the world which is pretty much everywhere that isn’t america. honestly, kneeling during an nfl game with brian hoyer and andy dalton slinging the ball around like savvy veteran could in a way bring down this great american experiment for good. i hope colin kopernik knows just because the MAINSTREAM media has given his inherently meaningless action weight by prescribing it as a protest against social injustice it doesn’t also mean the act of standing during the anthem is also an inherently meaningless act only given weight by randomly quoting the bible or writing four paragraphs with endless amounts of qualifiers and platitudes that rend any point the writer is trying to make incredibly useless. well said good sir, i’m standing right now and saluting you.

  • Selwin Wainaina

    Has anyone even looked into why he was kneeling specifically? Him kneeling during the National Anthem actually is OUT OF respect for veterans and those who have fought for this country. Before he kneeling, he was going to just sit down. In a prior conversation with a Navy Seal, he was given the suggestion to kneel instead of sitting to honor those who lost their lives and NOT be disrespectful (similar to how veterans kneel at funerals of those lost and significant occasions). Kneeling during the national anthem was NOT a meaningless act when Colin Kaepernick did it because as all eyes were on him, he presented an issue to talk about. People outraged with him kneeling during the anthem would have NO choice but t assess why he did it and what it truly means. The protest was meant to upset and intrigue America for one common goal and a highly prevalent issue. NOW, it has become almost a joke as the new-kneelers seem to simply due so as a childish “You can’t tell me what to do!” to Trump.

    Have you ever considered this though…..What if Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem in protest of how America truly treats its veterans? To call out this country for pushing our veterans into poverty, unemployment, and homelessness and shedding a light on how America views its veterans as people, now, without utility. I bet that no one would be able to criticize the protest then, and so many would join the bandwagon to address this egregious issue. The only reason that his actions has sparked controversy like it has is because it points to this country’s still sensitive flaw of race and we TRULY do not want to discuss the issue at hand — hence why a protest with the topic of placing a spotlight on America’s racism was converted to an attack of the protester.