I have been thinking about how I feel about the various protests, in particular, the refusal to stand during the national anthem. With all of the differing views, I felt compelled to share my feelings on the subject. There are so many different angles to this I am not sure where to start.
First, I will always choose to stand for the anthem. The key word is choose. I wish everyone would stand for the anthem, but the second we make people stand for the anthem, our country has lost the thing for which it stands. Forced compliance is not respect; it is fear. We have the right to question the government, and we have the right to our own opinions.
I do not think the flag and the anthem represent just the military or the government. I believe that they represent the country, which is all of the individual citizens and the freedoms we have. I also think veterans do not fight for the flag or the anthem. They fight for what they represent. The irony is that when someone disrespects our flag, the flag they are disrespecting actually represents the right to disrespect it. I stand to respect all of us, both those of us I agree with and those of us with whom I do not see eye to eye.
The point of a protest is to call attention to an issue. I believe this protest is not doing what it was intended to do. I have heard few conversations about injustice, but I have heard many rants about whether standing or kneeling is the right thing to do. There is always going to be a group who does not agree with the direction of the country. If we kneel because we do not like the way things are, we will be kneeling forever.
Drew Brees recently shared his views on the anthem before a sporting event, and it echoed what I have believed. One of the most unifying moments is when we all stand together for the anthem before a game. Both teams, both sets of fans, all stand together for a moment. It reminds us of how much we have to be thankful for and the many who have risked everything to keep that freedom. Afterward, we all take sides, but we are united for that one moment. If the protest is about not having unity, why is it aimed at one of the few times where we all come together? I would ask the players who are protesting to find another way to get their message across. It may actually bring more people to their cause.
When we align into groups, we run the risk of losing our identity and falling into group speak. In these largescale protests, we get forced into taking a side. Once we take a side, we stop listening to the other side and eventually stop listening to ourselves. I wish we could talk to people on the other side of an issue in a one-on-one environment. I think we would be so much more productive if we could all work to try this. I am a white man who was raised in predominantly white upper middle class public school systems. I know that I am going to have a certain view of the world, and the only way I can get an appreciation for a different view is to talk to someone with a different background than myself. If you talk with someone different, you do not have to agree with them, but you will be smarter if you listen to them.
The U.S. is rebellious by nature. Our country was founded on rebellion. If someone tells us we cannot do something, many of us will do it just to prove we can. President Donald Trump handled this issue completely wrong. He took an issue that had virtually gone away on its own and just lit a fire under it. He could have created a unifying moment and suggested the players stand and find another way to protest. He could have even made his point by making a statement that it is offensive to kneel during the anthem, and owners should consider removing the players or firing them. Instead, he added a derogatory term and rhetoric designed to incite a response. Many NFL players felt they were called out by Trump, and this weekend was not about disrespecting the flag, but it was about responding to the president and showing unity to their teammates. Trump won the election by making strong and often divisive statements. He is now the president and should stop campaigning and start working to bring people together.
I will choose to protest in my own way. I will pray for the country. I will continue to learn. I will help bridge racial gaps where I can. I will lead with love, not hate. I will listen to all sides. I will still watch football. I will stand for the anthem. If someone does not stand for the anthem, I will offer to hold them up. I know many people will not agree with what I say, but I would simply ask that we have a conversation and both listen with an open mind.