What do we (literally) stand for?

I don’t normally post inflammatory things. In fact, I studiously avoid even the appearance of inflammatory-ness on social media (yes, I just made up a word but I’m an editor so it’s okay). Why is this so?

I work at a church. As someone whose job involves being in the public eye quite a bit (worship leaders don’t often have the luxury of hiding or anonymity), my opinions are best kept to myself in most cases, because there are those who would: a) assume that my own thoughts always reflect those of the church leadership; and b) completely judge me for any real or perceived deviation from what any given person considers the norm.

In a church of young, old, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, longtime Christians, former Muslims and new seekers, there’s a lot of variety in what is thought of as normal or “correct.” (Consider how the pastor’s kids are supposed to be perfect, according to some—lol, not the kids themselves, or the pastors, but some.) Therefore, my social media remains carefully neutral, almost always uplifting or fun. Because actually, doggone it, I am fun, and I hate it when people use social media to whine, put down others, air their dirty laundry, or spew hatred of any kind, whether political or racial.

So you can imagine exactly what it took for me to even consider writing this post. I’ve ignored people’s political rants, name-calling tirades, and more. But this week has tested my patience and as I’ve listened to people on both sides of the National Anthem debates, I have come to some conclusions that surprise even me.

This week has been filled with some great conversation with my kids as they struggle to understand why friends are spewing such hatred and strangers are actually making sense; wondering why some people are so closed-minded and why others are willing to spread stories without ever checking facts.

We love our country and we love our freedoms. But if we want those freedoms for ourselves, we need to recognize that those same freedoms extend to everyone, whether we agree with them or not. Personally, I don’t watch football, so it matters not to me that the NFL is the focal point. I wouldn’t watch or boycott in any case. When Colin Kaepernick first sat (yes, sat) during the National Anthem in 2016, it was recommended to him by a military acquaintance that kneeling was preferred. To “take a knee” was to show respect. When he first did this, I heard about it, of course, and was instantly indignant—how dare that spoiled, rich entertainer disrespect our country? He makes millions from playing a game, blah blah blah. Do I know Kaepernick personally? No. We are not on each other’s Christmas lists. I had no idea who he was, what his life was like, whether he was spoiled or generous. All I “knew” was that he was disrespecting our country and not following the rules of his workplace.

Fast forward to recent events. I am not getting into a political debate, nor am I jumping on any bandwagons. But I am asking people to THINK. I have, in the past couple weeks, looked into whether players are actually required to stand during the anthem, or even to be on the field during the anthem. They are not, despite many people quoting a not-current NFL rulebook. They are encouraged to be there and to stand, but it is not mandatory. The mere fact that standing is the expected behavior makes kneeling an appropriate, non-violent way to get the attention these players are trying to get—NOT to disrespect the flag, not to disrespect our veterans, not to protest our current president, but to protest police brutality, among other things.

Think of this peaceful protest (whether you agree with it or not) when we are bemoaning the violent ones splashed over the news. Think of how often people complain that “no one will listen if these protesters keep being violent.” There is no violence here. There is no blocking of interstates or harming innocent people while protesting about something unrelated to those people. There is only a plea to be noticed. To start the conversation.

The National Anthem (prior to being known as that) was originally played during the first game of the 1918 World Series, during the seventh-inning stretch. Because this was toward the end of World War I, the crowd responded with such enthusiasm that the anthem was played during the remaining games of the series. When the war ended, the anthem was played only at certain games or special occasions.

The anthem was played again during baseball games once World War II began (by then, known officially as the National Anthem), as a show of patriotism on a large scale. From there, it became used more and more, and spread to other sporting events, becoming tradition.

Thanks to the media, those who see someone “taking a knee” in protest during the National Anthem have confused it with protesting the anthem itself, and, in turn, the flag. Think, people. Simply think. In one short year, this protest against one thing (something that actually needed attention) has been falsly spun by the media into protesting our country, the flag, our government, and our veterans. Our military and military veterans deserve our respect for doing the job many of us can not and would not do, and even many of them are speaking out against what the media is trying to do here.

I can’t speak for everyone’s heart; I can only speak for my own. I have sung our anthem at hockey games and NASCAR races. I want to stand for that anthem, and the flag that represents my country and its freedoms. BUT if we want our freedoms, we can’t choose which freedoms others are allowed to keep. It doesn’t work that way. There are many who fought for my freedom. Who died for my freedom. All my freedoms, not just the ones people agree with. They fought, knowing that those who were opposed to war might spit in their faces when they returned home. They fought anyway, knowing that freedom was more important than popularity.

Forcing people to stand for our National Anthem is turning the symbol of our flag into an fabric idol, a sacred object. We can respect it without turning it into an item to be worshipped. As I posted on an acquaintance’s blog the other day, I am a white woman who has always been a white woman. I can’t begin to understand what some of my friends have gone through and continue to go through. Our country needs unity, and those who are protesting peacefully are being told by others that it’s “not enough” that they’re “only” refraining from violence.

Forcing people to stand for a symbol is dangerously close to fascism. And if we don’t allow that freedom of speech, freedom of choice to stand, or protest, or abstain—peacefully—then the flag we stand for ultimately means nothing.

 

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12 thoughts on “What do we (literally) stand for?

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  1. This is an honest and wonderful post about what freedom is about in this country. People forget that peaceful protest, within the First Amendment, doesn’t come with rules about where or when. There is room for our own personal opinions, but there is also a need for respect of others’ freedoms. Yes, THINK about whether you are truly loving the people of this country and their freedoms or only honoring a piece of fabric.

    1. Thinking (or not) is where people are failing lately. They’re so caught up in what the media is portraying, or what their friends are outraged about, that nobody is checking facts or even trying to hear what “the other side” is saying. Quick to outrage, slow to research.

  2. I just hate that for all of this standing and kneeling and sitting, all we’ve gotten is more squabbling. No solutions, no one working toward a better world, just more squabbling in an already divided nation.

    That, more than anything, is what has turned me off of football. I’m all for everyone’s First Amendment rights – truly, everyone’s – but when that speech just goes toward fighting with each other like children, then I’m out. When everyone just talks about who knelt and who stood and tries to shove words in the players’ mouths to somehow interpret what they mean, and no one talks about the actual game, much less any real issues, then I’m out.

    I have more productive things to do with my life. Things that, I hope, result in actual change. Not just more divided squabbling.

    1. I’m also really disappointed that all this has accomplished so far is more division, rather than actual conversation about practical steps in a better direction. I’ve heard many talk about how the protest could have been more effective if people hadn’t chosen the National Anthem as their vehicle for it, and honestly, I don’t know that it would have made any difference in how everyone is acting now. The whole thing makes me glad I’m not into the sports scene, because, as you pointed out, nobody’s actually talking about the game. Only behavior. And it’s STILL not helping to make changes.

      It feels like our country has become a nation of shouters, not listeners. Changing a FB status or using a hashtag is about as much action as anyone wants to take these days.

      1. Oh my gosh. If we weren’t so sick of politics already, that would be a great post on its own. There’s a running joke in my household that if the wife or I get a Facebook friend request from anyone whose last 5 profile pictures are just all “I stand with…” templates, then we ignore them instantly.

        “I stand with France.”
        “I stand with women.”
        “I stand with science.”

        Yeah, cool. I too like to stand with random things that no one in their right mind just blatantly hates. And, you know, for having posted your picture with that frame around it, violence is now down by 27%, women now earn more than men, and we’re currently on the verge of a scientific revolution. Good job, everyone! Couldn’t have done it without you!

      2. Ha! Yes! “I too like to stand with random things that no one in their right mind just blatantly hates.”

        Every so often, I’ll actually go to a friend’s fb page and I’m astounded at how often they actually post, because I’ve blocked so many of their social causes and double-secret-news exposé pages that I only see one in a dozen things they share.

        Maybe you’d see better results from your own social causes if you bought a T-shirt. One thousand “likes” will only get you cancer surgeries, I think. But the T-shirts . . . well, let’s just say those are movin’ and shakin’ the world.

    1. Oh, I have problems with judging at times, too, though I’m working on it. I’ve just been trying VERY hard to see all sides of the controversy. I have friends on all sides of these issues, and though it’s so difficult for me to understand what I’ve not experienced, it doesn’t mean their experiences should be minimized. Thanks so much for the visit and the comment!

  3. Would it be OK if I cross-posted this article to WriterBeat.com? There is no fee, I’m simply trying to add more content diversity for our community and I liked wh4at you wrote. I’ll be sure to give you complete credit as the author. If “OK” please let me know via email.

    Autumn
    AutumnCote@WriterBeat.com

  4. I agree. I have no skin in the NFL game, and think this is a so-appropriate form of protest. Non-violent, and does not say the many things that people say it says. Now if you want a real surprise, read all the verses of our national anthem. Yeow…

    1. I understand that there are people who think that the time during the anthem was a poor choice of when to protest, but when is a “good” time to protest? And why isn’t anyone satisfied that this was peaceful, with no hate speech, violence, or destroying of property? And now the anthem has become the focus, rather than the message of the protest itself. Sigh. Our nation as a whole needs to start figuring out how to stop hating “everyone” and how to start helping at least one “someone,” somewhere.

      Thank you for your visit and thoughtful comment!

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