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.