Taking a Stand
I’ve always stood for the anthem. I was only taught, however, to put my hand over my heart for the Pledge of Allegiance. This has caused my wife great consternation, as she keeps telling me you are supposed to do so. Mostly out of stubbornness, I’ve refused to change my ways, since I was taught what I was taught, and was too lazy to look it up.
So in writing, I did some intensive scholarly research on Google. As it happens, she may be right. I am not yet committing to changing my ways. I will, however, take it under advisement.
In all my education on proper anthem etiquette, never did someone provide a detailed lecture on the importance of the standing position. We were told to stand up. It was just what you do. It was standing as opposed to sitting that was usually the decision. Taking a knee wasn’t even a thought. It certainly isn’t an option when trying to juggle nachos at the at the ballpark.
Actually, sitting with nachos in hands seems worse than kneeling. Kneeling still requires some level of physical engagement of your legs and abdominal muscles. It requires changing positions. Sitting (when not disabled) seems far more disrespectful, if one were to grade such a thing. Kneeling just doesn’t seem as bad by comparison.
Yet kneeling has become all the rage, and an insult to millions of Americans, as well as one inhabitant of the White House. People have a right to be offended by anything they want (I think — that’s in the Constitution somewhere, right?). If so, then I have the right to not take them seriously when they are offended, if their offense doesn’t seem justified.
Huge Heffner, the Founder of Playboy, just died. To some he was a marketing genius, and to others the beginning of the modern way of objectifying women for their physical attributes (not that it’s a modern concept, just that he modernized how people do it). Yes, one man’s hero will always be another man’s pariah. No, I’ve never bought a Playboy, and I’m not taking a side in that debate, but it seems more justifiable to be offended by Playboy then kneeling during the anthem.
When it comes to Colin Kaepernick — who despite the recent solidarity of NFL owners, is clearly being blackballed — I am not offended. I am mostly surprised. When he began the movement, my feeling was essentially, “I don’t think it’s going to amount to much, not sure I get it or like it, but sure, go for it.”
Even though he is not even on an NFL roster this year, his protest has gained far more attention than it did while he was playing. Everyone has to have an opinion. So here is my uneducated, not historically fact-checked, off-the-cuff opinion. The is slightly expanded/modified version of something I wrote on Facebook a few days ago.
Is Kneeling an Offensive Form of Protest?
I believe people in this country have the right to peacefully protest, and that includes not standing for the anthem. Many citizens in this country ignore that in many other countries, even peaceful protests can get you put in jail, tortured, or killed. We generally do not want to emulate those countries.
This country was literally built on the idea of protest (though the Boston Tea Party may not have been considered peaceful to the British). The civil rights movement was built on largely non-violent protests (though yes, there were clearly some violent members and actions associated with it).
The purpose of a protest is to bring attention to an issue that, generally speaking, is not being heard or acted upon through “traditional” means. A commenter I saw on FB said the protesters need to put aside their “agenda” and understand how insulting they are being with their protests — the form of the protest was more important than the issue behind the protest.
I disagree. It is not the protesters that need to put aside their “agenda” — it is everyone that is going crazy over this peaceful, completely non-intrusive form of protest, that needs to reflect and understand what people are angry about.
The people who are protesting are doing so because they believe there is endemic inequality in our legal and law-enforcement system, and they want attention brought to it.
You can gain attention making insulting comments on Twitter like Dear Donald (because what else does he do with it?). Or you can gain attention in a way that NFL players chose to do — peacefully, but in a way that will be noticed without actually being in your face about it.
Realistically, I would imagine that kneeling for the anthem isn’t much worse than my failure to put my hand over my heart (though the latter is not an official act of protest, just stubbornness apparently). No one at any event has ever given me a hard time about not putting my hand over my heart for the national anthem (except my wife). This despite attending countless sporting events in large stadiums surrounded by thousands of people. No one was pointing TV cameras at me, but clearly no one really cared.
However, if you’re insulted by the “form” of the protest, well, there have been many other more “traditional” protests (marches, sit-ins, etc.) that have not gained much attention or spurred action. They have been derided just as much by the conservative movement. So when traditional forms of protests do not help, you turn to non-traditional methods and to whatever platform you have.
Does Everyone Get a Say?
NFL players who want to speak have a right to do so, and they don’t necessarily have the option of skipping work to go lay down in front of City Hall. They are using the platform they have. Their employer has the right to tell them to quit doing so since it’s an on the job protest, but that is up to them. Given that they haven’t interrupted the games themselves, the employers are likely not going to do too much about it. So far they are siding with the players, though if they start to lose money they may change their tune (but that will be hard to do).
I do not think the players are protesting the anthem or the flag. Those things are symbols — they represent our country, they are not the country. I’ve never served in the military, so count this as another uneducated opinion. Our military personnel, I like to think, aren’t putting their lives on the lines for a symbol such as the flag. They are risking themselves for people. They are training and fighting and sometimes dying to protect and provide for the individuals that make up this country. For the ideals and opportunities that we try to instill in the citizens of this country.
A flag burning is insulting not because of the cloth, but because it represents a hatred of what our country represents — the civil liberties enshrined in our laws and the opportunity this country provides. We see a flag burning and it hits us personally — it feels the person burning the flag hates us.
A Confederate flag is insulting not because of its color pattern, but because it is a representation of the severe pain inflicted on millions of individuals through slavery; the flag represents people trying to maintain and justify that pain. Flying the Confederate flag is painful for many people because it seems like it shows support for the pain intentionally inflicted on so many people. Full disclosure — I once gave a friend of South Asian descent a Confederate flag as a gift in high school when he became a U.S. citizen. It was purely a gag gift. I had to meet a shady guy over a trash can in a parking lot during a snowstorm to buy it. In retrospect, perhaps it was not a funny gift. Please do not judge my high school self.
So when people are kneeling for the anthem, I don’t think they are saying they hate the military or they hate this country. I think they are speaking to the country, trying to say we aren’t doing a good enough job providing for or protecting the individuals that are the country. I think they want all of us to stop fighting and arguing over symbols, and start standing up for people.
Just my rambling (un-edited) two cents. Please leave your two cents below.