In recent weeks, widespread peaceful protest has taken place on NFL football fields in what can only be described as a textbook example of the right to free speech; one group raises a concern, and the other group subsequently vilifies them. We see this happen when objections come from those on the “right”, and when objections come from those on the “left”, typically ignoring the substance of the message.
What does the flag mean to you? For some, it is a representation of our military force and the men and women that have sacrificed their lives to protect our freedoms. For others, it is also a representation of individual liberties, equal opportunities, and the society that has worn these values on its sleeve for many years.
The conflicting viewpoints regarding kneeling for the national anthem is a debate that, like many others, will never have a consensus solution. With such a massive piece of symbolism, how can we expect Americans to agree on appropriate etiquette? For those that view the flag as a military symbol, would you not rebel against anthem etiquette if the military turned on its citizens? Now consider the viewpoint of those who view the flag as a symbol of individual liberty and equal opportunity. Why are we surprised and outraged that these individuals kneel when the institutions that the flag symbolizes no longer serve them?
There has been a lot of outrage towards those kneeling during the national anthem by folks who view the protests as being disrespectful towards our military service members. However, where is the outrage over the unconstitutional, perpetual wars that these service members are being thrown into without debate? Is it not disrespectful to ignore the realities of our foreign interventions and the subsequent threats placed on our troops?
It is also interesting that we don’t see outrage over our out-of-control spending that our children’s children’s children will be paying off. How about the failed criminal justice system that disproportionately leads to worse outcomes for minorities than others for the same crimes? How about our failed sentencing policies that send people to prison for decades for non-violent crimes? How about the failed War on Drugs that prohibits nearly-harmless natural medications in favor of highly-addictive and deadly chemicals? How about federal overreach into state government, or executive overreach into the legislative? How about the fact that your elected officials authorized the government to conduct unwarranted surveillance of American citizens in secret?
You see, it is easy to point fingers at the other side of the aisle and label them as disrespectful. However, it is much more difficult to look in the mirror and accept that by failing to engage in public conversations about our government consistently violating the first ten amendments to the Constitution, we are all equally responsible for disrespecting the foundation of what makes America, America. These are the issues our troops fight for, not flag etiquette.
Featured image: EmojiLove.us
* Spencer Collins is a Navy veteran and healthcare administrator, with an undergraduate education in criminal justice and graduate education in public administration.