Yes, it’s true. Gymnast Gabby Douglas failed to place her hand over her heart while the national anthem played at the Olympic Games in Rio last week.
After the medal ceremony in which Douglas stood with her arms down, apparently clasping something in both hands while her colleagues on the U.S. women’s gymnastics team followed the accepted hand-to-heart protocol, social and traditional media blew up. What was she trying to convey? Was this a willful act of protest? Was it a Black Lives Matter thing (coming as it did on the second anniversary of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Mo.)? Did it reflect a disrespect for the country that gave her the opportunity to be an Olympian?
No, Douglas said later, when she apologized. It was inadvertent. She was overwhelmed, she said, and meant no offense.
But the real question is this: Why should she have to apologize? Why are we making judgments about a gold medalist who has spent countless hours of her life training and preparing for these games based on whether or not she displays her patriotism in some socially approved manner?
If you want to hang a flag on the porch, tattoo an eagle on your arm and shout “Go USA” from the rooftop, by all means do it. But one of the things about the United States is that we are not obligated to do any of those things. Our Constitution allows us to express patriotism, or not, as we see fit. That’s something worth being patriotic about.