The Anthem, Football, and Observations.

Originally posted September 13, 2016.

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Bagram, Afghanistan 2004.

Time to share my thoughts.

The recent controversy over the national anthem required some serious thought and a steadfast refusal to hop on the “standing room only” bandwagon of social outrage and justification. After all, that is all that this “controversy” really is… that and a chance to examine the concept of social contradiction.

Mirriam-Webster defines hypocrisy as “the behavior of people who do things that they tell other people not to do: behavior that does not agree with what someone claims to believe or feel.” To insist that everyone stand out of respect for the national anthem is to address the usage of the word “should” in the phrase “all other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart” as stated in 36 U.S. Code § 301 – National anthem. In this sense, the word “should” fits the commonly accepted idea that the action is conditional, obligatory, expected, or requested – therefore not mandatory. The temptation to wander off on another tangent about the proper respects and applications for displaying the flag is great, however, this is not the point at hand and more than likely the topic of later discussion.

Behavior that does not agree with what someone claims to believe or feel” is where my irritation flows from. On August 29th of this year, Kaepernick offered his reasons to sit during the national anthem to EPSN: “When there’s significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.” Since then, similar actions have been echoed with other players and in other sports.

It is the right of these athletes and anyone else who supports them to do so. “Should” is not a mandate in any legal sense, nor would I personally want it to be so. If a cause, such as the ones for which they refuse to stand is a strong enough of a personal conviction or matter, then that is a choice… and that freedom of speech guaranteed by the same document which abolished slavery and prohibited the creation any state law which was aimed to “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”. That document, which is part of any oath of public office or service, is repeatedly sworn to be supported and defended, and it was that document – and that flag – which was proudly displayed at the both inauguration ceremonies for the current President of the United States.

During his first inaugural address in 2009, President Obama acknowledged our past and future:

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met. On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

Four years later, at his second address upon re-election, he continued this tread:

We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional — what makes us American — is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

I remember 2008, when the votes were tallied and he was declared the winner of the election. There was resounding joy at the history which was made – the first “African-American” president, who was later sworn in under a flag “representing the people the way it was supposed to” with an oath to the Constitution. The nation watched the process of swearing in and, for some, they were swept with a feeling which I have experienced each and every time I had re-enlisted: pride and the solemn determination to do the best that I can to honor that oath, the flag, and the people it represents.

So, to the matter of the bandwagon of controversy, which one is it going to be? Are we living in a land of oppression, or are we living in a land where we have made progress from our tarnished history? For, in order for both of these conditions to be insisted upon as our reality is to show “behavior that does not agree with what someone claims to believe or feel.”

Personally, I have better things to care about than this social cause du jour, brought to you by overpaid professional athletes. They, much like myself, are entitled to their opinions and free to do what they feel they are compelled to. I shall remain proud of the flag and all it stands for – from a past which is disturbing at times and humbling at others, to the speculative future… to the current and former members of the Armed Services with whom I have and have not served with to the ones which they will pass on their legacy. It is my hope that once again, people will remember our entire story and be proud once more of how far we have come.

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