There’s been a lot of talk lately about the national anthem and what people say and do during its playing. Tradition dictates that one stands during the national anthem (also known as The Star Spangled Banner) as a sign of respect. Standing shows an acknowledgement of, and association with, the values and accomplishments the national anthem proclaims. Sitting or kneeling during the national anthem is seen by many as an inappropriate gesture of disrespect or antagonism to its core message.
In the Beginning…
The recent controversy began in earnest when Colin Kaepernick made a political statement by sitting and/or kneeling during the playing of the national anthem. His claim is that he’s pointing out the hypocrisy of the nation in how we deal with people of color. Since that time others have joined him in a show of solidarity, including athletes, police, and more.
These displays of dissent have accomplished two things. While they have brought the subject of race relations and judicial equality into the light, they have also brought about irritation and anger in others. Are these actions a question of free speech? Yes, they are. Are they also a sign of disrespect? Yes, they are.
Is It Free Speech?
People have a right to free speech in the United States, and that right includes the freedom to say (and do) things which others may object to. It is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. However, the same freedom of speech that empowers Kaepernick and others is the same freedom which empowers others to disapprove of their actions. I happen to be one of the later.
Am I against someone because they voice an opinion? I may not agree with what is said, but I’m not against their right to say it. Am I against equal treatment under the law? No, I’m not. Everyone is supposed to be equal under the law, and if that is broached then it should be rectified immediately. What I (along with many others) am against is the disrespect shown to a whole nation of people simply to make a political statement.
The ideas expressed in the national anthem are the same ideas that the people of this country are called to live by. Those ideas embody dedication, principle, personal responsibility, teamwork, and fairness. They are the ideas that inspire men and women to enter the military, the police, and other fields of civil service.
A Different Perspective
These people understand that their service helps to ensure the framework of the country remains intact. They know that no human government is perfect, but America stands apart from other nations. Countless others have felt that way, and laid down their lives to ensure the perpetuation of those ideas to posterity. The national anthem is more than just a song – it is a set of values.
To disrespect the national anthem is to disrespect the very ideas which allow them the freedom to do so. Those who do so may want to inspire change, and change is inspired. The problem is that those actions inspire the wrong kind of change. They foster division and animosity, not unity.