Our service doesn’t entitle us to get offended by Kapaernick’s choices or anybody else’s.
This reasoning is rooted in a premise that is both wrong and dangerous. If kneeling for the anthem and the flag is a direct offense toward the military, that means veterans have a stronger claim to these symbols than Americans in general do. The argument insists that American iconography represents us more than it represents anyone else.
Yet the flag is not a symbol reserved for the military. It is a symbol of the United States of America, and it belongs equally to all citizens, including Americans who kneel during the anthem, or those who wear flag shirts (which is also in violation of the unenforceable flag code), or even those who burn the flag.
.. We are not an elite class of citizen elevated above our neighbors. When we start thinking of ourselves as a warrior caste, removed from the people we defend, we exacerbate the civilian-military divide. We indulge in an entitlement mentality that isn’t healthy, demanding special treatment, such as discounts or restrictions on fireworks that might upset vets with post-traumatic stress disorder. The message is, You’re welcome for my service .
.. We should be able to dislike something without seeing it as a personal affront. We should be able to oppose something without becoming frothy-mouthed and obsessed, as some veterans online have done over Nike’s ads. We should embrace Special Forces veteran Nate Boyer’s insistence that we show compassion for those we don’t agree with, while also acknowledging that everyone is free to boycott and destroy their Nike gear as they see fit.
.. What’s more, believing that we have a special claim to the flag conflicts with the fundamental values of the armed forces, which elevate service over self. Serving is an honor the American people grant us, and it is Americans — in their totality — whom we serve. This does not give us license to appropriate national symbols as our own exclusive banners. Service is a privilege, not a way to purchase greater moral authority.
When we start with big universal ideas, at the level of concepts and -isms, we too-often stay there and argue about theory and generalizations. At that level, the mind is totally in charge. It is then easy to love humanity, but not any one person in particular. We defend principles of justice, but would not put ourselves out to live justly.
This takes different forms on the Left and on the Right, to put it in political terms. Liberals are often devoted to political correctness and get authoritarian about process and semantics. Conservatives can be overly loyal to their validating group for its own sake and become authoritarian about its symbols, defining and defending the rules and rights of membership in that group. Both sides risk becoming “word police” and “symbol protectors” instead of actually changing the world—or themselves—by offering the healing energy of love.
Sometimes neither group ever gets to concrete acts of charity, mercy, liberation, or service. We just argue about theory and proper definitions.
Start with loving one situation or one person all the way through. That is the best—and maybe the only—first school for universal love.
And it immediately begs the questions: why there are no slave ship monuments, no prominent markers on public land to remember the lynchings or the slave blocks; nothing to remember this long chapter of our lives; the pain, the sacrifice, the shame … all of it happening on the soil of New Orleans.
So for those self-appointed defenders of history and the monuments, they are eerily silent on what amounts to this historical malfeasance, a lie by omission.
.. There is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it.
.. The historic record is clear: the Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard statues were not erected just to honor these men, but as part of the movement which became known as The Cult of the Lost Cause. This ‘cult’ had one goal — through monuments and through other means — to rewrite history to hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity.
.. It is self-evident that these men did not fight for the United States of America, They fought against it. They may have been warriors, but in this cause they were not patriots.
These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for.
After the Civil War, these statues were a part of that terrorism as much as a burning cross on someone’s lawn; they were erected purposefully to send a strong message to all who walked in their shadows about who was still in charge in this city.
.. Alexander Stephens
.. He said in his now famous ‘Cornerstone speech’ that the Confederacy’s
“cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”
.. Another friend asked me to consider these four monuments from the perspective of an African American mother or father trying to explain to their fifth grade daughter who Robert E. Lee is and why he stands atop of our beautiful city. Can you do it?
.. But like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “wait has almost always meant never.”
.. it’s always made me feel as if they were put there by people who don’t respect us.