by: Timothy Sutton
The president ran his mouth off again. He went to Alabama and decided to condemn NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem. This, of course, immediately led to dozens more of them who had previously not cared two wits about kneeling to kneel today. Facebook then immediately responded with posts about burning jerseys, selling tickets & PSLs, and how the players disrespected veterans, our flag, and our country. Ignoring the hypocrisy that so many of these posters are the very same ones complaining about safe spaces, snow flakes, and asking why people are offended by statues, we can come from a premise that everybody is wrong.
I am going to stand for the national anthem and encourage every one else to do so. Not because I care if you don’t, do whatever you think is best, but I will try to explain why I think standing is best. Our flag and our anthem are symbols. Symbols of America. And America is more than a country. America is more than its people. America is an idea.
As Dr. King said, America is a promissory note that all Americans fall heir to. That is worth standing for. That idea is best espoused in the magnificent documents of our founding. The belief that all men(and women) are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. That among these are the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is these ideals that men fought for. It is these ideals that men died for. The acres in Arlington, the beaches in Normandy, the islands in the Pacific are the final resting places of men, of all colors and creeds, who believed in these ideals. We stand not to honor the men, but to honor the ideals. But, and while everything you say before the but is not false it must be considered, but one of the most precious ideals of this nation, of of the most precious instruments of liberty which our creator endowed us with is that of free speech. From this liberty flows all of the others.
We must be able to make our fellow man uncomfortable. We must be able to offend. For it is only through offense can man grow as a society. It is through the offense of Martin Luther, Galileo, Copernicus, & Gutenberg did we escape the “dark ages.” The first thing tyrants ban is guns. The second is books. We must be constantly pushing the edge to gain the most out of society. Today is the greatest time to be alive. Worldwide poverty and violence are at all time lows. Less people are starving than ever before. But this worldwide success is not as acknowledged in the United States.
The 1950s are looked at as the paragon of the American Dream not only because of the milquetoast television shows we all saw in reruns but because the United States was literally the only industrialized nation in the world that hadn’t been decimated and destroyed the decade before. Now the rest of the world is catching up. Now more and more Americans have platforms to show that much of our beliefs about our country are as mythological as unicorns and dragons.
Systemic and pervasive racism exists. Income inequality exists. Misogyny and homophobia are rampant. Irrational xenophobia colors our thinking. Police can be corrupt. Politicians do not have their constituents best interests at heart. To continue to paraphrase Dr. King, America has written a check with insufficient funds to pay for that promissory note of freedom and liberty. But in reality, Dr. King was wrong in that it was only people of color to whom the insufficient check was written to.
The insufficient check was written to everyone. To be sure, people of color received almost no support and were actively demonized, otherized, scammed, beaten, killed, lynched, incarcerated, and victimized at much higher rates than anyone else. But it really is not about their skin color. It was about power. People will take power in anyway they can get it. Dividing people is the easiest path to power. It still works today. It is why you should never divide your army in battle. These divisions are real and we must do something about them.
I understand the urge to protest them. To protest the insufficient check. To sit down during the anthem because of the broken promise of America is understandable and maybe even the right thing thing to do. But I won’t do it because that promise is all we have. We must all strive to make that promise a reality. We may not get there in my lifetime but it must be the goal of the nation. When one says we are going to make America great this must be the objective. The objective can’t be a monetary one. It can’t be about making the best deals. It can’t be about jobs or military might. It has to be about ideals. It has to be about being that shining city on a hill. About being the new Jerusalem. The destination for the world’s oppressed.
America needs to be the land of opportunity, not because we are the richest, but because we have the most liberty and equality. America isn’t a place. It is an idea and we must continue to fight for that idea. Failing to fight for that idea is the real disrespect to the men who have already given their lives fighting for that idea.