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On Patriotism and The Anthem

"I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” Many people have heard or seen the last line of the famous speech given by Patrick Henry in 1775. A speech in which Henry urged the people to form a militia and fight against their oppressors. Henry would have rather given his life for liberty than to die being silent.


In the last couple of years the action of kneeling during the National Anthem has become a very popular debate and with it has become the discussion of injustices and oppression in the U.S. Social media and news shows have become grounds for debate over who the “true Americans” are among us, and what constitutes patriotism in today's society. In the next couple paragraphs I am going to lay down my argument in this debate. The idea is for those reading to open yourselves up. Instead of jumping the gun and gripping to your opinions with white knuckles, I ask that you read these words carefully. Do not blind yourselves with partisanship.


This debate really started after Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the National Anthem before football games. In combination with his “pig cop” socks, the event became quite the spectacle. A lot of people have taken the kneeling to be a direct attack on members of the military and the very country that we live in. I believe that this argument has become a blind defense mechanism by people who believe that “patriotism” is a very specific way of loving one's country.


Who gets to decide what actions and ways of life are “patriotic?” I ask because this debate has turned into “American vs Anti-American” actions and beliefs. Does the mere act of military service qualify one as a true patriot and American? What about those who have served in the military AND believe that kneeling for the Anthem is okay? It is not hard to find those veterans that support athletes and others who kneel for the Anthem. Kaepernick was actually told by a veteran that kneeling for the Anthem would be more respectful than sitting, and so Kaepernick decided to kneel. Kaepernick or even Megan Rapinoe, who has come under fire after kneeling during the U.S Women’s Soccer game vs. Netherlands, do not kneel to attack veterans nor does the very action of kneeling constitute an attack on American ideals or veterans. This is what has been sold to people.


The American Flag has been a symbol of many things over the years and continues to be a different symbol for everyone. It has been a symbol of slavery and oppression. It has been a symbol of freedom and the right to life, liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Today, it continues to be a symbol of freedom and a symbol of the best country to live in the world. However, it also represents a country where black people are still the victims of racial profiling, and it is the symbol of a country that continues to send men and women to their death in wars that are not going anywhere. The flag represents a country that has the third highest rate of homicide in the world. It represents a country that allows for veterans in the street and children being placed in cages.


So I ask another question: Is it anti-American to protest the symbol of a country that still has a long way to go? Is it wrong to ask more of the country you live in? If Megan Rapinoe hated America, would she go on a national stage and kneel for the Anthem? If you ask me, kneeling for the Anthem at a time like that shows that she loves her country and simply asks that it does better in the future. She did not go on TV and say she hates America, or veterans. When did exercising free speech become an attack on our country? Veterans have fought and died for our rights to speech, religion, and assembly. I believe that it would be hypocrisy to say Megan Rapinoe or Colin Kaepernick do not have the right or the reason to kneel during the Anthem. It’s those very rights that people have died to protect that give voices to others.


Many people have given their lives in service to our country, and I respect and admire them for that, but it is extremely hypocritical for people to decide they get to choose who is labeled as a patriot and who is not. Instead of clinging to the idea that one side is right and one side is wrong, perhaps we should be thinking about where those two sides meet in the middle.




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