Okay, time to bust out my soapbox one more time…
So, we just went through another weekend of NFL football and, not surprisingly, there were numerous players who once again decided to either take a knee, stay in the tunnel, or interlock their arms with other teammates during the playing of the National Anthem. And now we are seeing this more and more with people in the stands, having the act carry over to other public events where the National Anthem is played, and even others doing their own demonstrations of defiance during the National Anthem – some even turning their backs during the playing of the song. And while I see why these acts are angering a lot of people, it is the right of these players, men and women to protest against the national anthem as they see fit.
As much as some would hate to hear this, there is no law in this land that would force someone to stand in attention during the playing of the National Anthem. There is United States Code, 36 U.S.C. § 301 that states the proper way to address the flag and National Anthem when it is being played, but since there are no written penalty associated with the code, it falls under the same controversial observance rules that apply to the Pledge of Allegiance and under the rights of Freedom of Speech as noted in the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America. Meaning, they are within their legal right to protest in their own way during the playing of the National Anthem.
And, as it stands, why should they be forced to stand in attention during the National Anthem when they feel, as do others, that the song is a representation of a country that is still persecuting them and others? Why should they be forced against their will to do something that they have a right to protest against? We are not a totalitarian or fascist state that forces our citizens to honor the flag. We have rights in the United States that allows for the Freedom of Speech and for people to protest the injustices they feel are being plied against them. A right that men and women throughout the history of this country have fought and died for in order for us to practice and enjoy these rights – my family included.
My family has fought and died for this country for generations. Since the Spanish American War, members of my family have served with honor and dignity. Through World War I where members of my family served in the European front. Through World War II, where my grandmother lost her first husband and several other members of her family. Through the Korean and Vietnam Wars where members of my immediate family served and died – many coming home wounded and forever changed. Through the First Gulf War where my cousins and uncles again served. All the way through the current War on Terror that is raging across the world with more family of mine have been serving. I would have been there serving with them had it not been because of a severe physical injury I suffered in my last year of high school that medically disqualified me from military service. I had my whole life planned out since I was 13 years old, enlisting in the Navy and serving for life until retirement. My family has served and fought and died for people in this country to exercise their rights – including that of Free Speech, even if it means protesting the National Anthem.
And I stand with these players, men and women who protest. Ever since I was in middle school, when I made the choice to stop practicing religion (I was raised Catholic) and recognize my roots as a member of the Chumash band of Native Americans when I asked my parents if it was okay if I stood silently during the Pledge of Allegiance in school. My parents were supportive of my decision; and I don’t think I ever came across a teacher who tried to force me to do otherwise. I even remember having this discussion with my 8th grade history teacher, Mr. Tardeguilla, where he told me it was my right as a citizen of the United States not to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. My family supported me because they knew what I was doing was what I felt was right. I love this country just as much as they do. I wanted to serve this country despite my feelings towards the crimes the United States’ attitude and actions toward members of the indigenous tribes as this country expanded westward. But my love for this country was not going to blind me to those past crimes, nor would those past crimes blur my love for this country.
And that is why I stand with these people and their right to protest the National Anthem. Oh, I may be standing myself during the playing of the National Anthem, but I understand and respect the rights of these players, men and women to protest the way they are doing. No one, not even the President of the United States, has the right to tell these people that they have to stand during the National Anthem. No one should ever force them to stop protesting lest we decide to give up the Right to Free Speech, or worse, limit who these Inalienable Rights are for. These rights, including the right to protest, and not just for some but for all who live within the borders of this nation – citizen and undocumented alike. And don’t even get me started on the man who currently sits in the Oval Office in the White House. He may be the President, but he is far from any kind of respectable man I have ever seen.
When a man who has openly mocked a hero of the Vietnam War, a former Prisoner of War, when that same man also insulted and questioned the sentiments of the parents of a Gold Star Soldier, who’s son gave his life for this country, decides to call out those protesting during the National Anthem as being disrespectful of those same men and women who have and currently serve in the military – that is hypocrisy of the highest order, and it makes it hard to respect and take the man seriously despite his elected position. No, I cannot take this man seriously when he calls these people protesting “sons of bitches” and states that they should be fired, yet doesn’t take that harsh a stand against White Supremacist and Ultra Nationalist who wish to insult, hurt, or kill others just because they don’t fit in with their ideal of what a “true American” is – this is an insult to the forefathers of this country and a slap in the face of everyone who has given their lives to defend the rights those people want to strip them of. Sorry, but he has no footing in this conversation.
People may not like it, but there is nothing you can do to force these people to stop protesting. It is their right as citizens of the United States to do so. The best you can do, if you don’t agree with them, is to do your part as you see fit, and stand in honor of the National Anthem and what it stands for. Me, I believe I will continue to do what I do now, stand quietly during the National Anthem… but if there ever comes a day when I see the men and women of this country forced to stand in attention against their wishes, you can bet that I will be the first to stand with my back to the flag the moment that happens – and may the stars have mercy on those who would force me to do otherwise.