Respect for the Flag

Keith Markovich/Correspondent

Stand up if you respect the United States of America. Remain standing if you or someone you know serves in the United States Military. Recently many people have been sitting during the playing of the “Star Spangled Banner,” specifically at sporting events. This is setting a bad example for others and ultimately dividing our nation. I don’t know about you all, but when the national anthem plays before a sporting event, chills run down my spine. Nothing else can get me fired up the way it can. 

I am fortunate to have never been a victim of discrimination, but I am disheartened by the fact that it does exist in our society. No one deserves to be treated like they are less than someone else. Although racism exists in our society, I believe that most people are good, and the United States of America provides us with many privileges we take for granted. We can all agree that improvements need to be made to make our country a safer and more accepting place to live; however, I feel that kneeling for the national anthem targets the wrong audience. 

This issue came to the surface when the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, Colin Kaepernick, chose to sit during the playing of the national anthem. The news of this spread like wildfire and several players decided to join him. Evelyn Stratmoen writes in the January 2018 edition of Personality and Individual Differences: “Players have stated protests are meant to draw attention to racial inequalities, not to disrespect the United States.” Many people did understand what Kaepernick was sitting for, but there was still some confusion. 

Kaepernick’s message was interpreted in different ways. When interviewed by Ryan Wilson of CBS, Malcolm Jenkins, safety for the Philadelphia Eagles, said, “But for me personally, I have a lot of friends that served. My grandfather served. And this is a country that I love. So, me not standing for the national anthem isn’t really going to get me the results that I want.  I’d rather be doing something in the community. Talking to people that can actually make some change.” Jenkins actually kneeled for several national anthems before he realized that it was sending the wrong message. That wasn’t who he was. In an interview by Mike Triplett of ESPN, Drew Brees said, “The American flag is ‘sacred.’ It’s an oxymoron that you’re sitting down, disrespecting that flag that has given you the freedom to speak out.” Drew Brees went on to discuss that he has no issues with speaking out against racial injustice, just the method of protest. 

We love our country, and we love the freedom it gives us. Some other nations around the world do not grant those same fundamental freedoms. In an interview with CNN on Sep. 19, 2016, Barack Obama commented on Kaepernick’s actions: “as I’ve said before, I believe that us honoring our flag and our anthem is part of what binds us together as a nation.” Obama respected his decision to kneel because that is his right, but he said, “I want (the protesters) to listen to the pain that that may cause somebody who, for example, had a spouse or a child who was killed in combat and why it hurts them to see somebody not standing.” Staying united as a nation is something that we can never afford to lose. The foundation of America is built on a mix of races and cultures coming together for a cause. We cannot let disagreements and anger cloud the meaning of our flag. There are men and women out representing our flag and fighting to uphold it. They are not to blame for any of this injustice taking place on our home soil. 

I believe that as a country it is our responsibility to show respect for the flag at all times. At the 2012 Olympic Games, Usain Bolt stopped an interview to stand at attention for a national anthem that wasn’t even his own (Shladebeck, 2018). To me that is respect. He set an example that I think everyone should follow. No matter the nation, we should all be standing when a national anthem is playing because we are respecting each country and what they have done to get their flag to stand. 

The only solution is to always stand for the national anthem. Encourage everyone you know to also stand in respect for the United States of America and be thankful for the freedom of speech and thought it provides us. Several NFL teams have adopted a routine of locking arms during the national anthem instead of kneeling. This lets people know that not only do they stand united for those not receiving the equality they deserve, but also for our nation as a whole. Peaceful rallies or marches are a way to start a movement and fight for a cause, but ultimately the “Star Spangled Banner” should be left alone. 

I understand that it is a person’s constitutional right to do as they please during the national anthem, but if there is a specific issue they want to address, I believe that they should be clear about that. The only thing that the kneeling has caused is confusion and a lack of understanding of what the real root of the problem is. Jonathan Intravia writes in a report about national anthem protests: “The reasoning underlying anthem protests strike right at the heart of trust, justice, and legitimacy—themes of which echo prominently throughout all aspects of the criminal justice system.” Never stop fighting for what you believe in because that is your right, but never show disrespect to the people who fought to give you that right. 

In conclusion, it is ultimately your decision, and I will respect that, but I hope that you will also respect my opinion that standing for a country’s national anthem is necessary. I stand for my late grandfather who served, and I hope that you all will stand for a soldier that serves to protect you as well.

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