When former San Francisco 49er’s quarterback Colin Kaepernick, knelt during the playing of the National Anthem at the start of the 2016 season to bring attention to police brutality against African-Americans, it kicked off a controversy that has even included the President of the United States.
Donald Trump, famous for his early-morning tweets about sundry subjects, often having nothing to do with his role as the country’s commander-in-chief, and frequently abrasive and abusive against his perceived ‘enemies,’ immediately inserted himself into the situation by demanding that any players refusing to stand during the anthem should be fired. In response, many more players (and some owners and other team officials) have either joined in the protests, or sided with Trump.
This controversial situation shows no signs of abating, and raw emotions have taken the place of rational thought as Trump continues to stir the flames with his ill-advised and often inappropriate tweets.
A number of questions need to be asked and answered in order to bring some sanity back into this situation.
Is there anything, other than personal respect, that requires any American citizen to render honors to the anthem or flag? As a former professional military officer, I’d have to say, it depends. Military regulations require uniformed personnel to render appropriate honors, whether in or out of uniform, but there is no statue that can require non-military personnel to do so. If this argument is about rendering proper respect for our national symbols, I have to ask, what about the many examples of misuse of the national flag?
The Flag Code, though not a law, establishes certain procedures and actions in respect to the national flag. Flag etiquette requires that the flag not be”
- Used as drapery, or for covering a speaker’s desk, draping a platform, or any decoration in general.
- Embroidered, printed or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything to be discarded after temporary use.
- Used as part of a costume or athletic uniform, except that a flag patch may be used on the uniform of military personnel, policeman, fireman, or members of patriotic organizations.
What, then, should the reaction be to singers who wear headwear, jackets, or pants with the flag on them, or the NASCAR vehicles with flags on them, which are exposed to dirt, grease and exhaust fumes? What about the display of the national flag alongside the Confederate flag, a symbol of forces that rose in rebellion against the United States?
It would seem to me that, if we’re going to have conniptions about people kneeling during the playing of the national anthem, we should be indignant over the blatant misuse of the flag, should we not?
If Donald Trump, who attended a military high school, but is ignorant of the bugle calls that he should have heard every day he was in school, is so upset over this exercise of the Constitutional right to protest, he should be equally indignant over the blatant disregard for flag etiquette.
That he is not speaks volumes. Patriotism is not something that can be legislated or demanded. It arises naturally when people feel respected by those waving the symbols. Our energy would be better spent learning and respecting the rule of law established by the Constitution, and showing respect for those whose views differ from our own.
It’s time to stop tweeting, and start thinking.