The sight of people kneeling during the playing of our national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” requires a response.
Unquestionably, we are an imperfect and flawed country, where bigotry, racial inequality and social injustice exist. But the notion that the American flag created or perpetuates these social ills is simply wrong.
It is people who create and perpetuate these social ills and, unfortunately, some of these people wear the American flag on their sleeve. However, to link those individuals with our flag is both disrespectful and unappreciative of those who proudly wear the flag on their sleeve.
The American flag embodies an incalculable generosity to those suffering from natural or man-made disasters. Americans don’t take a knee when, at home or abroad, victims of tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes or other natural disasters ask for our financial help.
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The American flag embodies the selfless sacrifice of those brave men and women who respond to national crises. American first responders didn’t take a knee on Sept. 11, 2001, when asked to help others amid the horrors of the twin towers. The American flag was buried with them in the rubble that day.
The American flag embodies the courage and bravery of our service men and women when called upon to relieve the suffering and oppression of others around the world. American soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and coasties don’t take a knee when it comes to protecting our liberties, including our First Amendment right of free speech.
The American flag embodies the unnoticed simple acts of kindness and compassion that Americans show to one another every day. Americans don’t take a knee when it comes to helping others in need.
We are, as our Pledge of Allegiance reminds us, “one nation, under God, indivisible.” Kneeling during our national anthem denigrates the very symbol of our indivisibility. Kneeling during our national anthem promotes division, not healing, and disrespects those that proudly wear the American flag on their sleeve as an emblem of what is good in this country.
In a strange way, kneeling during the national anthem is both ironic and hypocritical. When those who kneel during our national anthem need the services of those Americans who proudly wear the flag, who do they call? Certainly not their supporters. They call those same fellow Americans who proudly wear the flag.
And those people who respond to calls for help never take a knee. They respond without inquiring about race, ethnic background, social status, or political persuasion. They simply respond and, in many instances, risk their own lives in doing so. That is what the American flag is all about and that is what makes this country great.
Those who kneel can’t have it both ways. They can’t seek to exercise those freedoms for which the American flag stands while at the same time disrespecting the very same flag and those who wear it. Simply because the First Amendment protects the right to kneel during our national anthem doesn’t mean these actions should be applauded.
If we as a nation are to move forward in a unified effort to eradicate bigotry and eliminate racial inequality, we must change people’s minds and attitudes.
The American flag is not a symbol of bigotry and racial inequality; it is a symbol of hope, courage, and compassion. If we as a nation believe otherwise, then our efforts to bring this country together will be for naught.
My job, as a citizen of this nation, is to strive every day to embody what makes this country great, and to not take a knee when others around me need help – even those who kneel during our national anthem.
If we could all make that same effort, we can bring Americans together and not promote divisions among us. We can bring our people closer to being one nation, under God, indivisible.
The writer is a lawyer in Philadelphia.