I LOVE AMERICA

I’m a veteran. I served for more than a decade in two branches of the armed forces. My brother is also a veteran. Many of my dearest friends are veterans. I’m a very patriotic person. I love American history and what our nation has meant to the stability and peace around the world since WWII. True, I didn’t die in battle… and to be honest, I was never even in a battle. But, I have often been moved to tears during moments of national pride, and I get choked up whenever a U.S. Olympian wins a gold medal and the national anthem is played for the world to see.

I have visited Fort McHenry where the Star Spangle Banner was written. In 1993, I was selected Coast Guard Person of The Quarter at my USCG Headquarters unit. I later represented the (entire) U.S. Coast Guard at The Pentagon during the national Arbor Day celebration, where a tree was planted by a member of each branch of service, to honor the nation’s fallen soldiers and sailors. There, I ceremoniously planted the Coast Guard Tree (and those trees still stand today, by the way). I have visited Washington D.C. nearly a dozen times and have shed tears at the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. I have sang on the dais of the National Cathedral. I visited the homes of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. I have read the plaque at the base of the Lincoln Memorial and I have personally laid eyes on the Declaration of Independence. In short, I love our country, I love the flag, what it stands for, and the symbols and emotions that it evokes (or is capable of evoking).

MY PATRIOTISM IS MY OWN

There is nothing anyone could ever do to change how I feel about America. There is no behavior that you could exhibit that would change the way I see the flag or other symbols representing America. Every time someone burns an American flag, it changes nothing for me. If someone flies the flag upside down, it has no effect on my respect for the flag, and it makes it no less special to me. Basically, other people’s behavior towards my flag literally causes me no emotion whatsoever. So here it is… do whatever you want. My patriotism is my own.

PATRIOTISM AT FOOTBALL GAMES

At every single football game EVER, there are those few who choose to sit in the stands during the anthem instead of standing. Some sing while others stay silent. Most remove their caps, but some keep their heads covered. WHO CARES!? I simply do not care whether a few other people stand, kneel, put their hand over their heart, face the flag, get teary-eyed, mouth-the-words, remove their hats, etc etc etc. Clearly… that’s their business.

I realize that for some Americans, we, as a people, should all display certain behaviors that reinforce the idea that we are “one”. After all, our nation’s motto is E Pluribus Unum (latin for “out of one come many”), and how can America be united as “one” when so many people disregard customs that help solidify our ideas of “how Americans are”?

For many, these apparent signs of disregard or disrespect towards our symbols of national pride pollutes the idea of what Americans should “be like”. The protesters’ behaviors force some Americans to change their ideas of “how Americans should behave”. This, in turn, causes fear – a fear that America is becoming something that looks and feels differently than the ideas or perceptions of the America they thought they once knew.

Although it’s true that American culture is changing, it’s nothing new. Culture wars have existed as long as younger generations have had new ideas. And, with the increase in communication and social media, it now feels, more than ever, like all America is sitting in one giant living room. But we’re not all sitting in one giant living room. We’re still separated by geography, ethnicity, subculture, and demographics. Is there any wonder why, even though we all are so different from one another, we all feel so deeply that we should all be on the same page?

LET IT GO

So here’s the deal. There is nothing the politicians can do to force the NFL players from kneeling during the national anthem. Non-violent, public protests are deeply ingrained in American culture, not to mention the fact that the Bill of Rights guarantees “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances”.

Vote for whoever you want. But remember… whoever you elect will have absolutely no say-so about whether or not football fans remove their caps, place their hands over their hearts, sing along with, or stand during the national anthem. Likewise, your elected officials can do absolutely nothing to stop the players from reverently taking a knee during the anthem to draw attention to a cause in which they “petition the government for a redress of grievances”.

You are your own patriot. Stop letting the behaviors of others lessen the importance of our American symbols. And stop allowing politicians to use this as a way to gain your vote or to incite division, when in fact, there’s not a thing any of them can do about it.