BY BOB BEARDEN
Three million-plus Americans on Puerto Rico are facing a terrible humanitarian crisis while the guy with the projectile eyebrows sits in the Oval Office tweeting out his displeasure over athletes disrespecting our flag and national anthem. Which, of course, they aren’t.
Despite what a lot of people on one side are saying, the problem is most people know nothing about the history of our flag or our national anthem because they know nothing about our history. Most of them apparently have gotten their knowledge of history from watching a lot of old John Wayne movies. And a lot of people are trying to make our flag and our national anthem into cult worship.
These are symbols not meant to be worshiped as if they were deities. Peaceful protests for whatever reason are a part of America and are as American as Mom and apple pie. Millions of people watch sporting events on their home TV screens and the overwhelming majority do not stand when the national anthem is played. They are sitting down, downing a beer or chomping on a sandwich or eating popcorn.
Are they not respecting our flag and the national anthem by not standing with their hands over their hearts? The worship of flag and anthem has a parallel, in another place and another time – another man made the worship of an anthem and a flag mandatory on penalty of death to those who would not stand and offer a seig heil salute to that nation’s flag and anthem.
We as Americans are – or at least should be – better than that.
And why do we think that only people who are at a public place must stand while everyone else watching at home can be in the bathroom or scratching themselves or burping themselves, having just swallowed a couple of gulps of their favorite beverage. Why do some people seem to desperately need the reassurance that they are as patriotic as the next person?
My belief is if you must keep reassuring yourself of your own patriotism by dissing someone else for what you perceive as their lack of patriotism, then you are the one with the problem. And when did we start to militarize patriotism as in only those who serve in the military are true patriots?
My mother never served in the military, but she did work as a Rosie the Riveter in a defense plant during World War II. Shouldn’t that make her a real patriot, too? My father never served in the military because he was judged to be 4-F, but he became a wrangler for the Calvary during World War II. Wouldn’t also make him a patriot?
Millions upon millions of our fellow citizens never served in the military but that doesn’t mean they, too, couldn’t or can’t be patriotic. Standing at a football game or other sporting event doesn’t a patriot make. And only honoring military service as patriotic leaves off millions of our citizens who served in the Peace Corps, millions of our youth who served as VISTA Volunteers, and millions of our citizens who do what they can quietly every day to make a difference in the lives of others less fortunate.
Making a difference in the life of another person, whether one is recognized for the effort or not, is, as a true American patriot Ralph Waldo Emerson said, the single most satisfying aspect of one’s life. That’s real patriotism with a capital P.
There are a million different ways to serve your country and still not be in the military. Sure, I believe in honoring the service of those of us who served in the military, as I did, but I also believe that because of my military service everyone has the right to protest injustice. That’s one of the many principles this nation was founded on and that’s why we have military service to protect the right of our citizens to be able to stand or sit in silent protest against injustices that they see.
Peaceful protest is a right that we all have and calling people sons of bitches because they are exercising that right is wrong on so many levels and it is un-American in so many ways.
– Bob Bearden is a trustee with the Central Labor Federation, a member of Mayflower Congregational Church UCC in Oklahoma City and a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer