Recall the iconic WWII photographic image of the American Flag being erected by GIs on Iwo Jima. If you don’t remember that look it up. It stirred a profound sense of pride throughout our country during terrible times. Maybe you can picture in your own mind other images of our flag. Maybe at a parade, during scouts, a ball game, or maybe draped over the coffin of an American soldier. Maybe your mind sees our flag in flames during some protest. The point is that the US flag is a symbol of our country; a symbol of us, who we are and what we stand for.
Some people don’t like what we stand for. Others are willing to die to protect what we stand for. Fundamentally, I believe we stand for freedom. You may think I’m naïve and, to some extent, I probably am. But think about it a moment. We have the freedom to make choices. We can say “yes.” We can say “no.”
Recently, there has been great controversy about a sports celebrity refusing to stand during the National Anthem honoring our flag. He chose to kneel as a way of protesting. He was planning to sit but he found a middle ground by which to peacefully protest rather than dishonor our tradition of standing to honor our flag and what we stand for. He and others have the freedom to protest and in a variety of ways voice their choices. Let’s face it, we are far from perfect. But our freedom allows us to protest, to speak out, to identify what’s wrong in hopes of achieving a better us, a better American way of life.
We do not have to voice our complaints in ways that are violent or destructive. We don’t have to dishonor our symbol of who we are just to be heard.
The question of whether we should even play the National Anthem and honor our flag at sporting events has also come up around this protest controversy. I say that it is an American tradition that we do. In fact, I believe it is our traditions that we share that allow us to be one country, one people. It seems we keep eliminating our American traditions and as a result, we compartmentalize ourselves into our own ethnic, religious, political, or whatever groups. We no longer find ourselves as one people with diversity. We isolate ourselves. “Us versus Them.” We lose our ability to even talk calmly or to simply get along.
We lose our ability to find compromises for the benefit of all.
Play Ball and join in! Be one people with so many differences among us; so many strengths and experiences on which to depend when needed. There is no one perfect way but we can be one nation; one people. But only if we respect each other just as we respect our symbol of freedom.