Is it unpatriotic to kneel during the National Anthem

What is patriotism?

It seems fairly simple and straightforward…”the love for or devotion to one’s country.” I think we often confuse patriotism with nationalism. That is, we implicitly align allegiance to country with loyalty to a particular group, its culture, background, and heritage.

What happens when you don’t feel part of the predominant group? What happens when your group has a different history and culture than that group?

I would argue that it is this issue that rests as a root cause of the current furor over the behavior of professional athletes during the playing of the National Anthem.

One side sees America as the idealistic America. We are a melting pot, but one that has truly bonded its component elements. There are far more things that bind than divide. Our differences have been fused in a national history that has its share of inequities and injustices, but one that is ultimately based on a common and accepted set of cultural principles.

Another view would be that the differences are still clear and significant. The historical path has been one of exclusion as much as it has been of melding. The past has left inequalities that no amount of love of country can overcome.

Pilgrims seeking religious freedom and slaves from Africa have each had their turn at persecution, but we should not forget that there is a magnitude of difference between their start points, their historical path, and their opportunities and prospects today. One cannot legitimately say, “That was then and this is now.” There is still much of “then” left in the “now.”

Ours is a story of not just those two, but thousands of journeys. Mine is but one.

I believe in American Exceptionalism despite the fact I know that our country was built in an imperfect way. Every country has historical legacies they would like to forget, but I believe that America is the one place where it is possible to become something other than we were born. Yet, I recognize that even that is a vestige of my place in society.

If “America First,” means looking out for U.S. strategic and economic interests above those of other countries, then yes, I believe in it. It is utter folly not to do so. However, I do not believe that it means we should be xenophobic and jingoistic. We must recognize that there are mutual interests that can best be promoted through international cooperation.

I cannot help but filter my view of the world through these lenses, but I know that if my origins were different, my view of life would likewise be altered. It is this internal recognition, one of which we are all capable, that holds the key to the future.

The election of Barack Obama gave hope and optimism to groups that had, for some legitimate reasons, felt disenfranchised. Many of his actions seem to level the playing field for them.

However, we must also recognize that another group of people felt opportunity slipping away. Whatever advantages they may have had, on a table they already felt was level, seemed to be slipping away. This is likely the impetus for Donald Trump’s election. He seemed to promise a world returned to the past. We forget that the tables can and have turned before.

Did your mother ever say to you, “Well, now you know what it feels like.” Perhaps we all now do. I see the growing divisions in our country as much an opportunity as a problem. We must regain our capacity for empathy.

In this context, how should we view the decision to stand for the National Anthem?

I served my country and its flag. I stand because I believe it represents both and the sacrifices that countless people have made on our behalf. That is my choice.

A patriot is proud of his country not just for what it does but what it believes. Freedom of action and speech are core values in America.

Is kneeling during the National Anthem unpatriotic? Is flying the Confederate flag, a representation of a country against which the United States fought a bloody war to defeat unpatriotic?

Part of the America I love means people get to do things I don’t like, but they are free in this country to do so. Rather than despising them for their choice, perhaps we should try harder to understand why they made it.

Our President should take positive action. Rather than lambasting the NFL, perhaps he should announce the establishment of a national commission to investigate the causes of law enforcement racial problems. This should include the investigation of police bias as well as the root causes of such behavior, including the disproportionate level of violent crime committed by minorities in some communities. The solution to one requires grappling with the other.

We should then expect that those who are protesting the National Anthem would give such an effort the chance to succeed. At least we would see who was serious about solving problems and who was just grandstanding.

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