Saturday, September 30, 2017

Time to End the National Anthem

Granted, this nation has a short attention span and an even shorter memory, but it is time to focus and remember.

I have really struggled about whether to write this opinion but standing on the sidelines is no longer a viable option. I come from a military family (my dad, my brothers, my son, and I) all served honorably—from Viet Nam, to posts foreign and domestic, to Iraq. I also served in the Air Force Honor Guard and currently serve as a chaplain to the military. While some NFL players feel compelled to kneel together to make a statement, I feel compelled to STAND for those who can no longer STAND whether because of loss of life or loss of limb. I choose to stand for the children, the parents and the spouses who have made the ultimate sacrifice for this country.

I have always been proud to be an American but not too proud of what I see happening to America. This country desperately needs to be united but this usually only happens during times of war or a nationwide calamity. It has long been proclaimed that the United States of America will never be defeated by any invading military power. Likely, it will shamefully disintegrate from internal strife. It matters not who instigates the uproar whether communists, terrorists, leftists or the far-right. Unfortunately, the media seems to be simply stoking the self-destructive flames.

Why do true Americans pledge allegiance to a flag? The answer is really quite simple. The flag represents our united country of fifty states, in good times and in bad! Unfortunately, it seems like we may soon find fear for terrorism is overcome by a fear for anarchy, strife and social unrest from within. 

A Little History First

The National Anthem became a tradition in sporting events to focus people’s attention upon those who had served to insure the freedoms we so richly enjoy. It started with baseball amongst those steeped in wartime patriotism. In 1931, President Herbert Hoover signed a congressional resolution making the Star-Spangled Banner our National Anthem. The National Anthem and Old Glory are near and dear to those of us that have served along with those impacted by war and those conscious of the security that a strong military affords. Saluting the flag during the National Anthem is much more than a simple tradition to those who have served and sacrificed.

The Stars and Stripes and the National Anthem are patriotic symbols. Francis Scott Key wrote the Star-Spangled Banner two years after he witnessed a bloody battle between American and British troops in the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812. He wrote this poetic song as he saw the troops defend Fort McHenry in a day long battle. The garrison flag that was raised over that blood-drenched fort is housed at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

Those with graying heads remember that not too long ago, some in this country chose to spit upon and curse those returning from battle (Vietnam). For many decades these heroes were forgotten by the country they served, nevertheless most of them continued to love this country and show respect for it. My father is one of those men.

A lot has changed since 9/11 when America was attacked from without and stared into an uncertain future. On 9/11 things appeared to have suddenly spiraled out of control and the American people placed their hopes square upon the military. Americans—white, black, yellow, red, and brown—realized that we simply wanted a fix “over there” to stop any future attacks upon American soil. I saw and witnessed the transformation of America where every Vet and service member was now honored and truly appreciated. As a Vet, I appreciated the newfound and long overdue respect for the military, but still shuddered a bit when my son went to Iraq with the Marines.

A Nation of Diversity

This country is made up of good and bad people who do good and bad things to people of their own race as well as other races. A white man who shoots a person of color or a person of color who shoots a white man does not define a race of people. Yet, Colin Kaepernick, who began the NFL protests said this:  “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” If the vast majority of non-black American citizens do not oppress blacks and other people of color, his statement comes across as simply a racist statement.

The supposed attention upon racial inequality and police brutality has brought most of the attention upon those who make millions through sport. Regardless of anyone’s intention, the result has been to show disrespect for our country and those who have served and died to defend it.  Loving this country (despite its many faults) is what it means to be an American and a true Patriot. Those who refuse to show pride in the Stars and Stripes should travel with me to some of the countries I have visited to see true oppression, poverty and despair. Most players and coaches would never dream of showing the same kind of attitude toward an opposing team before the game.

I’ve played sports all my life and love the distraction of watching a good college football game. There have always been good and bad examples. I was impressed by Deshaun Watson who saw people hurting in Texas and gave his first game check to three Texan employees who had lost cars or houses in the hurricane. If athletes are against black oppression they should get back on their feet and go to areas where the oppression is greatest (like inner city Chicago) and do something to directly impact those who are being oppressed the most. Instead, they kneel during an inappropriate time in the safety of an area where everyone has been thoroughly searched to insure their personal safety and security.

An Improper Balance

If all of this is about free speech and the First Amendment (which it is not) then why did the NFL threaten to fine players who wanted to remember those who died on 9/11? Yet, a player can wear “pig socks” because an anti-police movement is acceptable in the NFL? NFL players can show disrespect for those who wear a badge when the vast majority of the police are good decent hardworking men and women who serve to protect others. One of the key players stoking the flames reportedly lied about being singled out by the police in Las Vegas! Oh yes, my dad, in addition to being retired military, served for ten years as Captain of a police force!

Why can’t the NFL stop the sitters and squatters, but can refuse the Dallas Cowboys’ request to honor the slain police officers with a simple helmet decal? The real problem is political correctness and liberal agendas uniting to bring this country to its knees through racial strife, division, and hatred. Alejandro Villanueva, an offensive lineman with the Pittsburgh Steelers, standing alone during the Anthem and later apologizing is a great example. Why would a decorated Army Ranger who fought for this country feel compelled to apologize for standing rather than kneeling or skipping the anthem? Because it is not about the First Amendment or racial equality—it is about silencing all those who would disagree with this destructive political agenda.

Much work always needs to be done concerning social justice and it always will. We actually appreciate the peaceful civil disobedience but those protesting do not recognize that they are treading upon the sanctity of those who have given their all so that the protestors can have a voice in a free society. If it is not acceptable to spit in the face or upon the graves of those who have served, then it is also inconsiderate to refuse to honor those who have served by sitting, kneeling, or skipping out during the National Anthem. No stadium is big enough to justify disrespecting the flag which is representative of our country.

If Tim Tebow took a knee during the National Anthem, the left would have been in an uproar and people like me would have expressed our disdain too. Instead, he chose to acknowledge God when he felt particularly blessed. His critics chose to ridicule him because it made people feel uncomfortable to see such an open display of reverence toward God. I understand the ridicule from those whose bearings have become stripped, but Mr. Tebow also started charitable foundations and traveled throughout this land and abroad in support of those particular beliefs. In other words, his display on the field was simply an extension of himself and in no way done to garner personal attention or financial benefit.

Greatest Country on Earth

Do you know why people flee other countries to come to America? Because America is perfect? No, because we are the best country in the world even when we are being divided by those who have no respect for the fallen, the wounded warriors, those currently serving, or veterans. These players have the right to take a knee to make a statement, yet many of them do not think that those of us voicing our thoughts should be afforded equal opportunity. We are deemed uncaring or worse yet, racially insensitive.

Whitney Houston’s rendition of the National Anthem was a top-20 hit twice; once during the Persian Gulf War and then after 9/11. After 9/11 we had police officers and firefighters singing the National Anthem. Christina Aguilera and Roseanne Barr can attest to the national reaction when the anthem is disrespected—why should we give NFL players a pass?  Francis Scott Key wrote, “Our flag was still there” Now, it is being desecrated by those who have some of the best opportunities of what this country offers no matter the race. According to Forbes and the U.S. Army the average NFL salary is $2.1 million while the average Army sergeant salary is $32,029. Why the disparity? Because some have chosen to sacrifice while others are blessed to play for a living while being protected by those who put their lives on the line every day.

End the Anthem

Now we are hearing that it may be time to end this once honored tradition of singing the National Anthem and honoring our service members at sporting events. Those of us that have served would rather see this hallowed tradition end than to witness the disrespectful display by those who think their cause is more important than the ones who have truly sacrificed to give them the right to disrespect.  The fields are not equal: one plays for money and the other fights and defends His country.

I do not think a boycott is best since it will disproportionately impact blacks who make up a majority of those playing in the NFL.  Racism in all of its many forms is despicable! But so is this blatant anti-Americanism! When NFL players in London kneel for the U.S. National Anthem but stand for the British one—“God Save the Queen,” they are a national disgrace!

At the end of the day, the greatest impact of this act has been to further divide this great country between those who understand what that flag and the Anthem represent versus those who desecrate both with dishonorable actions. While we are at it, why not remove the flag pole from the stadium and let the fans decide whether they can support such an un-American institution? Patriotism is infectious but so is disloyalty to a country.

With the Anthem and the flag gone, why continue the hundreds of military flyovers? It should be noted where the Anthem and the flag are not welcome, neither are those who serve.  Just remember this: when we end the Anthem and strip the flag poles, those who wish to divide this country will probably have the means to destroy it too. However, this pendulum could quickly swing in the other direction but no patriotic American wants what it will take for sports celebrities to again stand tall with their right hands once again upon their hearts in unity. 

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