I had a happy little blog post half written and then I made this mistake of trying to be “the cool wife” and sit down to watch football with The Hubs. Because, give me a rum and coke and I’ll do that kind of thing. I used to be a huge football fan (what’s up, Saints???), but my loyalties have gone over to hockey these days. I don’t have patience for football.
The only way I know anything is going on these days, is if I see it in Facebook. Which is why I’ve been avoiding Facebook an awful lot as of late because life is lived with so much more ease when I’m not freaking out about the latest debate and/or conspiracy theory. Though….I do often like conspiracy theories. Let’s be honest.
I do not, however, like this recent protest trend going on in the NFL. I opened and closed this blog post several times before deciding to actually write it. I like to stay defiantly joyful. Social media easily turns things into a mob mentality; a he said/she said fight where there are no winners, but an open platform for debate.
Debate is a good thing. Part of our first amendment right as Americans is the right to free speech. There are a lot of countries in our world who don’t have free speech. They’re censored. They’re told what they’re allowed to believe and they’re persecuted if they don’t. America is supposed to be a place where you’re allowed to be who you want to be, to say what you want, and do what you want to do. It’s supposed to be a democracy. That, in itself, is another blog post entirely.
These football players, as they get ready to make millions of dollars playing a game, where nothing but stats and lifetime averages and fantasy football scores are on the line, are certainly allowed to exercise their freedom of speech. Like the Confederate Flag, which has been nonstop in the news as of late, the American Flag is a symbol: fifty stars for our fifty states, thirteen stripes for our original thirteen colonies. It’s a symbol for who we are. I’m not upset about their protest. Protest, fine.
In all the Internet’s glory, memes and posts tell me not to consider the veteran or the fact that these players are making millions upon millions of dollars to play a game. That’s not the point. Really? Because, I’d like to take a poll of our men and women who are fighting–and dying–overseas, defending our flag and our country and our right to be free and see how they feel about it. They see it as a protest. But they’re doing that feet away from uniformed soldiers, sailors, and airmen. The monetary returns for putting your life on the line for your country are not in the millions. I challenge any of these football players to understand the perpetual anxiety of knowing that your loved one is in a war zone, risking their life because that’s their duty as an American soldier and then act like the flag and the National Anthem are something to be protests against.
But it’s their right.
My husband is an Army veteran. My father was in the Army for twenty years and is buried in a national cemetery. My father-in-law was in the Navy for over twenty years. My maternal grandfather was in the Army and served in Germany, France, and Belgium during WWII, my paternal grandfather was in the Air Force and served during Korea. The Hub’s grandfathers were also in WWII and Korea. He can trace military service in his family back to the Civil War; mine goes back to the Revolutionary War. So, yeah, maybe I’m biased. But it’s my right.
As Americans, we take our rights for granted. Authors are just as guilty; we write about violence and sex and horrible, terrible things that if we actually did, we’d be thrown in jail. It’s our right, though, to write. It’s our freedom to be able to say, to write; to dream what we want. What if we were brought to judgment because of what we write? Or what we think? Writer friends, think about your most violent or sexually deviant piece. What if you were brought to court for that? Thrown in jail for imaginary things? But no, that’s not something we as Americans have to worry about. We have the comfort–the freedom–to write and feel and think what we want.
Look, if kneeling during the National Anthem or raising your fist as some kind of protest is how you want to use your freedoms, fine. I’m not here to judge that. What concerns me, is that this is a protest that stops when the cameras turn off. So, you sit during the National Anthem. Fine. You rile some people up, they write blog posts about it and make memes for Facebook. Great. You’re making a social impact. But how deep does that fervor run in your veins? Journalism 101: no publicity is bad publicity. You say you’re doing this to start a conversation. Okay, so talk. How are you going to incite change? Revolution? Yes, it’s your right to disrespect our flag and our anthem. But if you’re doing it because you want your name in the press and because you want someone else to do the dirty work, I don’t respect that. If you are so committed to your cause that you’re willing to suffer the floodgates that are open, were are you going from here? I hope it’s not just to keep sitting or just kneeling during the Anthem. If that’s it, then it has lost its meaning and you’re just a tool. Can you walk your walk? Obviously, you’re not afraid to say it. But are you going to act on that? Are you willing to make a change and act on your freedoms or are you just happy to abuse your freedoms, get some press, and make your millions?
You can agree or disagree and that’s great–that’s an open dialogue and, I think (?) that’s what these protestors are going for. Open dialogue. But are you willing to act? You certainly don’t need any kind of takeaway from this post. But, if you do. I hope it’s this:
It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.
It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the Soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.
It is the Soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the Soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.
It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.
–Charles M. Province, US Army