Why We Stand for the American Flag

Now that the political left has decided to strain our few remaining bonds of national unity by encouraging disrespect for the American flag and the National Anthem, will there ever be a day in the future when Americans can pause from political division and join together as one nation to remember all we've accomplished?  Can the athletes who have decided to kneel in protest of America imagine that future?  Won't there always be some injustice, somewhere, that forces athletes to their knees?  Won't there always be some kneeler who feels compelled to judge the actions of another American, even if those actions occurred decades or centuries ago?  Do athletes who take a knee plan to stay on the ground for decades to come?  Will they teach the lesson to their children and their children's children that disrespecting the flag is the noble thing to do?  Just how many generations of kneeling will it take before America is properly punished?

If Joe Biden is elected president, will athletes learn to love the flag?  If he loses, will athletes hate the flag forever?  If the American flag and National Anthem are seen merely as the symbols of one political party, rather than the symbols of the entire American nation, then aren't we just a collection of people gathered in the middle of North America without any country at all?  Isn't that what the political left has had in mind all along, the end of America and all she represents?  Then isn't disrespecting the American flag and the National Anthem just another way of declaring yourself an enemy of America?  Isn't kneeling just an expression of the desire to break the nation in two?

If that's not what kneelers have in mind, then they should pause to think about what their actions represent to Americans who see the flag and the Anthem as testaments to our common national purpose.  When we see athletes choosing to protest for causes by destroying our national symbols, we don't see people advancing ideas and civil argument.  We see people who have chosen to blaspheme those few things in civil society long held sacred by most Americans.  Dishonoring the flag over political disagreement is like burning the Bible out of theological disagreement.  When kneelers choose to attack the most basic sacraments of our secular republic, they aren't asking for change.  They are asking for an end to the republic.  

Too many Americans have died for our flag for it to be treated with such casual disdain.  Too many Americans have cried before the coffins of loved ones while holding that flag in their arms.  Too many Americans have escaped harm in faraway lands only to breathe sighs of relief once within sight of that flag blowing in the wind.  Too many Americans have given their lives while running headlong into danger so that the American flag can still fly today.  The political left can pretend that kneeling before the flag and disrespecting the National Anthem are innocent forms of protest, but they drive a knife into the hearts of Americans who see both as the very things their loved ones died to preserve.  By their actions, kneelers tell those who sacrificed themselves for our freedom that their sacrifice was in vain.  They tell those who gave their lives that they are no longer worthy of the effort to rise from our knees to our feet.  They tell the survivors that their pain is for naught.  

Trying to fight perceived injustice in society by mocking the handful of traditions that define us as members of this society destroys our society for good.  A country that divides itself into tribes becomes a land of many countries.  Disrespect for our common history and hatred for our common flag will one day make it impossible for common neighbors to feel anything but hatred, too.  This is how great nations fall.  A seed is planted in the minds of men that everything we've built together is worthless, that everything we've accomplished is evil, and that everything binding us as one is a lie.  That seed grows until the very ideas of freedom and liberty that we've celebrated together since childhood become twisted into weapons of hatred and fear that tear us apart.  There must be some traditions that we are willing to respect together.  There must be moments when we put politics aside to enjoy each other's company and to marvel at each other's talents.  We must be wise enough to understand that if nothing holds us together, then no protest can ever mean anything at all.  Protest succeeds only when it persuades a common people to change together, not when it forces a common people to splinter into many. 

No American athlete would travel to a foreign country and dishonor that country's flag and anthem by showing outward disrespect.  The flags that fly in other lands are not our own, yet we all understand instinctively that to show contempt for another nation's emblems is equivalent to declaring war on that nation, too.  When we seek to demonstrate to other countries our peaceful intent, we don't turn their symbols of national pride into cheap props to be desecrated and scorned.  All we ask is that American athletes treat our flag and our Anthem with the equal respect that they would accord to any other nation abroad.  Because should they ever find themselves in unexpected peril in distant lands, it is the American flag that they'll pray to see.  The one flag that flies for all of us is the one flag that sets us free.  

This is why we stand.

Image: Jeff Turner via Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

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