Bending the Knee

When I grew up, we were poor. We had very little and if my grandfather hadn’t come to this country from Sicily at the turn of the last century and with his own hands built the house we lived in, we would have had nothing at all.

My mother was a widow with three children under four years old living in a one-bedroom apartment. Yet, the things we didn’t have didn’t matter, because in school we learned that in this country if we worked hard we could have anything, we could be anything -- it was the American dream.

So, I may not have had much, but I was still blessed by God to be an American. I believed every morning when we said the Pledge of Allegiance that the good Lord had bestowed upon me a true grace allowing me to be born in this “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

I remember crouching underneath my desk waiting for a warning siren. I remember praying every day that the Soviet Union (that’s what Russia was called then) would not blow us up. I had a key to our apartment when I was five years old because my mother had to work every day so that we could have Captain Crunch and Quisp for breakfast. I wonder what kids had for breakfast in the Soviet Union?

Years later when I held my little boy on my chest as we watched TV, I thanked God and Country for the child in my arms and the opportunities he would have in his life.

Today, I fully understand that if I had been born in another nation, I would have been dead long before my expiration date.

I believed in the American dream then and I believe in it now. I look around me at the things I have and the life I lived and know there is no other place on earth where this would have been possible. I stand for the National Anthem; I stand in gratitude; I stand in awe; I stand humbled by the greatness of America.

Colin Kaepernick refused to stand because he believed the flag stood for oppression or something or other. It doesn’t matter what his reasons were. We should not care because the “why” is immaterial. He refused to stand and he paid the price for his actions through lost employment opportunities. He has never expressed regret for what he did. Good for him, you should never let your mouth write a check your backside isn’t willing to cash. But it is not racism that he can’t get a job; it is due diligence on the part of potential employers. What team wants distractions from their backup quarterback?

Recently he said he was done with his protest and the ‘not standing for the National Anthem’ fad was losing traction until Donald Trump tweeted that any son of a b@#*h who doesn’t stand should be fired. This reignited the protests when the NFL decided that they were going to support players who refused to stand, which opened the door to those players who wanted to virtue signal their purity as rebels in society. Being a rebel is fun when it doesn’t cost you anything.

I don’t agree with the president’s choice of language and if I were he, I would have stayed out of the whole thing, but he has a right to his opinion just like everyone else.

Stand, kneel or don’t come out of the locker room, this is a free country. The Constitution of the United States of America guarantees everyone the right to disrespect our nation and its flag but don’t dare tell me I have to like it or if I don’t like it I am a Nazi, or a racist, or whatever they say I am because I don’t support their ingratitude -- and don’t say their employer doesn’t have the right to fire them or that people don’t have a right to change the channel either. The Constitution guarantees your right to voice your opinion but it doesn’t shield you from the repercussions of voicing your opinion.  

Remember James Damore? He’s the Google engineer who wrote the infamous “Google Memo” about the differences between men and women and how their personal choices and interests explain the relative paucity of female engineers better than does discrimination and unconscious bias. Google fired him for his missive and many on the right were outraged, maintaining he was terminated for exercising his First Amendment right to his opinion. Google said he was canned for “perpetuating gender stereotypes,” which lends credence to that charge but he was also fired for sending out a company-wide email criticising his employer. Freedom of speech gives you the right to speak your mind but it doesn’t shield you from consequences.

The First Amendment works both ways. While everyone is afforded the right to their opinions, everyone else also has the right to disagree with you and that goes for people booing football players and employers terminating recalcitrant employees who voice disagreeable opinions. Everyone has the right to disagree with anyone’s opinion.

My opinion is that those who refuse to stand should understand there is blood beneath their feet. People died so they can do what they do -- disrespect their nation’s flag while playing a game for fame and fortune.

As I said before, this is a free country. The forefathers fought for this. Dead people whose names most cannot recall fought for this.

Stand if you want, kneel if you want.

But don’t you dare look at me and think you are anything special because you take the very fashionable stance of disparaging this nation.

There is blood at your feet, whether you stand or kneel. Fathers, sons, mothers, and daughters died so that you can look down your nose at the rest of us.

I will not condemn you; I will not hold anything you do against you.

As I said, you do what you want -- it’s your right.

But for me, I stand and in doing so, to God and Country, I bend the knee.

And that’s my right.

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