Monday, September 5, 2016

Still Standing

The recent upheaval concerning the professional football player refusing to stand for the national anthem (Colin Kaepernick) got me thinking about patriotism and America. 

Symbols often have deep meaning for many people across all walks of life.The American flag and national anthem hold such a position for millions of Americans, myself included. To not stand is to itself symbolically say, "NO". 

Not just "no" to particular policies, but really "no" to the country itself

The colors in the flag are themselves symbolic. The red is representative of the "hardiness and valor" in the country or - for many - the blood that has been shed to create and preserve the country.

I continue to have significant issues with and concerns about the future of America, but I have always stood in respect for the blood that has been shed so that even people like Mr. Kaepernick are free to disrespect the country. Blood shed like this from people who -interestingly - did it directly or indirectly to free people of color from slavery:

“The men rose up and dashed eastward through the open fields and along the railroad cut. Color-Sergeant John Hinchcliff, whom a fellow soldier described as “a Swede, six feet two, fair haired, blue eyed,” offered a conspicuous target as he attempted to escape with the flag. He was struck by several bullets and killed instantly. Sergeant William Wybourn, known as “a brave Irish lad,” rushed back and pulled the blood-soaked standard from underneath Hinchcliff’s lifeless body.

Lieutenant Pierce narrated the remarkable conclusion of the incident: “I climbed up the rocky face of the cut, on the south side, and made my way with many of our men across the meadow between the railroad cut and the Chambersburg Pike, crossed the pike into a small peach orchard, and I overtook the colors in the hands of Sergeant William A. Wybourn. Just as I joined him he received a shot, and fell on the colors as if dead. I tried to remove the colors, but he held to them with true Irish grit. I commanded him to let go, and to my surprise he answered, ‘Hold on, I will be up in a minute,’ rolled over and staggered to his feet and carried them all through the fight, and was commissioned for his courage.”

Battle of Gettysburg

Patriotism, though, is something that has to be voluntary, something that has to be freely expressed and not forced. To force patriotism would be for America to cease to be America. Back in 1989, there was a case that reached the Supreme Court, Texas v Johnson. It was about a state law forbidding the burning of the American flag. The Court ruled this law unconstitutional and said these good words.

"The way to preserve the flag's special role is not to punish those who feel differently about these matters. It is to persuade them that they are wrong.
 The remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.
 And, precisely because it is our flag that is involved, one's response to the flag-burner may exploit the uniquely persuasive power of the flag itself. We can imagine no more appropriate response to burning a flag than waving one's own, no better way to counter a flag burner's message than by saluting the flag that burns, no surer means of preserving the dignity even of the flag that burned than by -- as one witness here did -- according its remains a respectful burial.
 We do not consecrate the flag by punishing its desecration, for in doing so we dilute the freedom that this cherished emblem represents."

I will stand and be counted among those who still respect the country, 
even with all its imperfections.

I will also stand in defense of Mr. Kaepernick’s right to disrespect the flag and the country it represents and in so doing prove to him that we -and he -

are still free.

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