I respect the right of National Football League players to protest racism, police shootings, or whatever issues they feel strongly about by kneeling during the national anthem at ballgames.
I applaud the NFL players and owners who knelt and locked arms Sunday to protest the profane and pathetic comments of a president who seems to have no clue what American patriotism is really about.
But this is what I struggle with: How do people who understand patriotism and American values take back the national anthem, the American flag and other national symbols from jingoistic bullies who do not?
The anthem and the flag are not idols to be worshiped; they are symbols of our freedoms, including the freedom to protest what we think is wrong.
Years ago, I got tired of right-wingers laying claim to the flag. What sent me over the edge was when the Bush administration invaded Iraq, and Fox News Channel’s breathless pro-war coverage was suddenly awash in flags.
I supported the American troops being sent into harm’s way. But I did not support the politicians who sent them there. Iraq struck me as an unnecessary war being waged under false pretenses that was bound to turn out badly. Unfortunately, I was right.
I am liberal and proud of it. Many conservatives I know are proud of their beliefs.
But I reject the notion many conservatives have that they are more patriotic than liberals. And I am not about to stand by while they wrap the flag around some values I consider un-American.
I pushed back several years ago by buying an American flag and flying it from my front porch every day that weather permits. I am on my second flag. It is getting faded, so I recently bought a third one to replace it.
Patriotism is about love of country and support for the ideals upon which it was founded: Democracy. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Equal opportunity. Justice for all. Unity in diversity. Freedom of speech. Freedom of the press. Freedom of religion, and freedom from religion.
I don’t believe patriotism is about “my country, right or wrong.” It is not about supporting whatever the politicians in control say or do, but rather standing up to them when they veer off course.
Patriotism is about working with your fellow citizens to achieve a “more perfect union” that fully lives up to the ideals of the founders. They were a group of 18th-century liberals ahead of their time, even if their definition of “all men” included only white men who owned property. Everyone is a product of his or her place and time. If the founders were alive today, I think they would be the first to admit that their vision was too limited.
I respect the kneeling NFL players, but I prefer to stand during the national anthem, just as I will continue to proudly fly my flag. I am standing up for everyone’s right to protest. I am flying my flag because I understand what it symbolizes.
I would also suggest this: If you disagree with President Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric and policies, buy a flag and fly it from your house. The next time you are at a ballgame, stand up and sing the national anthem louder than that guy down the aisle wearing the “Make America Great Again” cap.
Do not let them define American patriotism. They don’t understand what it means.