On the occasion of Flag Day 2018
I will ALWAYS stand for the American flag and our National Anthem.
As the son of a Veteran who was an immigrant to this nation, raised at the height of the Cold War, in a generation where at least my Kindergarten class recited the Pledge of Allegiance, it’s simply what I was taught to do.
Later, I was lulled to sleep every basic training night by the refrain of Taps. During this time, I got to think critically about whether I indeed was willing to die for the cause of the virtues of my nation, (yes), and whether I was willing to kill for the cause of the virtues of my nation (also yes, though it took a bit longer for me to reconcile myself to this).
My reality has not yet matched my commitment, but not every veteran can say that. With firsthand experience that pales compared to most others, I appreciate the service and sacrifice of our all-volunteer military, whose members go anywhere on this globe and can endure unimaginable horrors on behalf of our nation — a nation that can sometimes be fickle about it all. It is for them that I stand.
As a free-thinking American citizen, also will I always stand. America, imperfect though she may be, has nonetheless striven to perfect itself to the standards of democracy and individual freedom, as a beacon of promise for other nations around the globe (in marketing terms: that is our brand promise)
With that said, we’ve fallen short of these ideals — too much, too often, and too recently to be tolerated. Among our various freedoms for all, then, is that of speech, one of our most powerful and precious among them.
Which makes me ambivalent about the NFL’s recent edict that all must stand. While I will always voluntarily stand, the service of our armed forces allows ALL Americans the right of free expression, to include the right to choose to stand … or to not. To the extent that our union’s expression of our ideal values falls woefully short for too many Americans, I’m grateful that others would seek to convict us of these inadequacies by these actions: their silent, principled protests.
I don’t like it, and I don’t agree with it … but here’s the shocking pivot to my message: I support it. Indeed, I would dare say that expressing this precious right — fully (and intentionally) offensive and alienating as it is — advances the cause of American freedom and democracy here at home, as much or more than does my military service in nations abroad. While military service has inherent risks and dangers for noble causes, political protests like kneeling for the flag, do too. These acts put at risk employment, income, reputation, and perhaps even health and safety. Nonetheless, this risk is voluntarily taken, toward an aim point that would ensure a strong America today and tomorrow, for the broadest swath of the American citizenry, procured at great risk and personal sacrifice. In this, then, is it not also one of the most patriotic things an American can do? And thus, also worth standing up for?
SIDEBAR: Toward a More Patriotic American
To be a true American patriot, you don’t have to suit up in body armor and kneel in a defensive fire position in Iraq; you also don’t have to suit up in pads and a helmet and kneel on the NFL sidelines at the passing of our flag.
While I understand the angst and frustration that my other fellow Americans feel when they see someone take a knee, there are many other things that many of us can — and should — stop doing in order to be more patriotic; because they are simply despicable:
- At these same ball games, keeping your hat on, talking, and swilling beer in the stands — all while the Anthem plays.
- Vote-dodging; jury duty-dodging; tax-dodging; bailing on knowing about local, state, national, and global issues; and dodging a responsibility to practice civic engagement are each every bit as despicable as draft dodging.
- Using the flag as apparel. Old Glory boxers should not be a thing; your body sweat should never stain my flag.
- Referring to our nation as “‘Merica” in anything but an ironic sense.
- Giving up on our nation, its people, and our ideals. Good people fought and died for this thing; we just have to keep it running. Let’s do just that, can’t we?
Do you agree? What else should we stop doing — or step up to do — to increase our patriotic regard for our America?
Deep Thoughts From the Shallow End of the Pool features essays from PR, business, and life — which means they might be as random as any of the rest of the content on this site!