We’re really talking about two different things here: American Ideals of Liberty with the Pursuit of Happiness, and, American Action-History (or reality).
The American flag represents, symbolizes and is emblematic of our American Ideals. When you stand for the American flag here is what you are standing for: freedom of expression; freedom to select elected officials; freedom to pursue your own choice of lifestyle and career; freedom to pursue your happiness; freedom from persecution. We modern Americans very often take these freedoms for granted because we have always had them. Thousands of Americans have fought and died defending these precious ideals. When we stand for the American flag we are standing to honor these Americans who have sacrificed for our freedoms and what we call our “rights”.
I think it’s a big mistake for anyone, and especially high-profile athletes, to not respect the American flag in the traditional manner, that is: to rise and stand with the hand over the heart to signify love and appreciation. To sit for the American flag or kneel for the American flag is an inappropriate response to a highly charged situation. “This is what I stand for.” I want you to take those six words literally and in their deepest double meaning. “This is what I believe.” And, “This is what I stand up for to show respect.”
I believe the athletes who sit or kneel are professing a disgust with American Action-History. That is, the failure of our American Ideals. They have every right to be disgusted because American Ideals are intentions that are world-wide huge and America’s failure are also huge. No country has ever before tried to do what we’ve done. In our shared tribal human history (whether you were light or dark) , if someone looked different, you attacked them or killed them or enslaved them. America changed all that. Let it read, America is still trying to change all that.
America is the country of the world that opened its arms to freedom-hungry people from all over the world. That is a founding American Ideal.
Because human beings (even Americans) don’t always behave in an ideal manner the reaction to the influx of later immigrants (notably Irish, Chinese, Italian) was terrible expressions of prejudice and hatred.
This prejudice, this unfair treatment, this un-American treatment, is certainly what the high-profile athletes are reacting to and responding to. They are certainly right and especially as free American citizens they are certainly right to protest prejudice and unfair treatment. It is very much the American spirit to be brave enough to take a stand against injustice especially if it seems to be embedded in the power structure. They are right to do this. They are very right to protest against the racism that still exists in our amazing country.
But they are not right to disrespect the symbol of our American Ideals. I say, Rise up, my beautiful athlete warriors. You have attained power and position in the greatest free land on earth. Use your power wisely to do good. The cause of freedom is not helped by disrespecting the symbol of freedom: The American flag.
America is still trying. America is always a work in progress. Don’t ever give up on America. You are all a part of that American progress we call freedom.