During the 2017/2018 NFL season President D. Trump took issue with Black players taking a knee during the National Anthem before their games. It was labeled as being disrespectful to the men and women who serve or have served in the Armed Forces. It wasn't of course but that was all that was needed to start the fire storm. The rich-spoiled-black athletes started kneeling more until the point entire teams began to kneel. The NFL, which is a business, took a beating from all sides of the coin. Fans swore to never watch another game and to boycott the NFL for not making their players stand up and respect our flag the symbol of freedom. Supporters of the kneeling swore to do it in the stands and make other protest until we, as a nation, take care of the inequality Blacks and Hispanics face in this country when it comes to the judicial system. It was riveting watching people get played, used, manipulated and angry about it.
The President stroked the flames. Apparel companies started printing shirts with the flag and veteran's proudly proclaiming "I stand for the flag" or something of that nature. And people started taking drastic sides. The thing is, nearly every person I saw complaining about the kneeling was White. On the other side people took the stance, which was about police brutality and escalation of force to serious or lethal levels within the minority communities as opposed to white communities, and turned it into a "F" the police movement. So much so that people began celebrating the execution of police officers especially white ones. The thing is, nearly ever person I saw celebrating the deaths of police officers were black. White vs Black. Black vs White. Same story every time. President Trump got people distracted, clothing companies used things like veteran owned, patriotic and labels like them to sell products to people who needed to take a stand for the disrespected men and women of the Armed Forces. Capitalism is grand!
Before I get too far off let me explain my first stance on the NFL players kneeling last year. They had the right to do it. Plain and simple. The NFL at the time made the players go out and stand for the National Anthem. The players did not have a choice. The NFL is a business and no matter how much they pay the players they can't be forced to be patriotic. Last season when the President called out the players as spoiled rich bastards (or something similar) they took their platform and took a stance. They had every right to do so. It really is that simple.
Now, this season the NFL came out with a policy that the players no longer have to go out for the anthem. If they do they will be expected to stand up for the singing of the National Anthem. Now the players have an option and for me that is where the kneeling should stop. You can't force patriotism on any one. It's actually un-American to do so. I supported the players and their stance ALL of them. I supported the one's who knelt respectfully while demonstrating their frustrations with the judicial system. I supported the men and women who didn't kneel for whatever their reason were. They had the right. I supported the NFL having to make a decision that would work for its business interest. Remember capitalism? That is easy to share. But, forgive me that is not what this blog is about.
This picture is me. I have used in blogs before but it works here too. My last major deployment in a war-torn country of Afghanistan. Twenty-two years I served this country. Twenty-two years I have put on a uniform, saluted the National Anthem, had a flag on my uniform and even my body (shoulder tattoo) and I watched way too many flag draped coffins being carried onto planes. This picture is me fighting for this country. Some would argue what we are fighting for but the simple thing is I was serving my country. Proudly. Twenty-two years I built friendships, bonds of brother and sister-hood that transcended race, culture, economic status, education, sexuality and even countries. Twenty-two years I hugged people and called them brother and sister and would give my life for them, if I knew their names or not, because they wore the same uniforms I did and served this nation. People will thank me for my service. I am, in this image, a patriot. A proud American. A defender of what we stand for in this nation.
Here I sit on the eve of the 4th of July thinking about that guy and this last year in our country. I think about the clashes I just read about between the Alt-Right and the Anti-Fascist groups. I think about how many times I have seen people I know say things like "those rich black bastards" or "I hate these white cops" either directly or through memes of some sort. Twenty-two years I served and here I am seeing the same stuff my parents and grandparents and further had seen. Division of a Nation.
None of this seems right. None of it seems... American. Yet, it is what America or 'Merica has become right in front of our eyes. Clear as the sun on a clear blue sky day. How can I be a patriot? How can I be American? How can I say I stand for the Constitution in this day? How can I be a patriot and say stuff like "all cops are white, redneck bastards who deserve to die!"? How can the guy in that picture be a patriot if that is what he stands for? Damn it! This isn't what I risked my life for. This isn't what I think is patriotic. You know what? Let me show you what patriotism looks like to many today and then I'll say what it means to me. The images you are about to see was taken by me as I walked around the mall and my neighborhood. Each one is the American Flag. The symbol of our Freedom. The thing used to bash the athletes for kneeling in front of during their protest. This isn't America. This is 'Merica in all its glory.
What you see are what will be all over the US tomorrow on the 4th of July as ways of paying tribute to America and its independence. In these pictures you see beach towel, woman's wrap, disposable dishes and stuff for cooking, a woman's belt, kids clothes, clothes for families and of course the lounge chair. Each of these items are against the US Flag code yet will be utilized to represent our love for the country, the symbolism or our freedom and show we are proud Americans. We are patriotic! In case you are wondering here is a couple parts of the US Flag code that says this is wrong. Because I wanted to be quick I copied from Wikipedia but feel free to check the official sites.
When a flag is so tattered that it no longer fits to serve as a symbol of the United States, it should be destroyed in a dignified manner, preferably by burning. The Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of the USA, the military and other organizations regularly conduct dignified flag-burning ceremonies.
No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.
The flag should never touch anything beneath it.
The flag should always be permitted to fall freely. (An exception was made during the Apollo moon landings when the flag hung from a vertical pole designed with an extensible horizontal bar, allowing full display even in the absence of an atmosphere.)
The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard.
Every item I took pictures of is disrespecting the flag and in turn disrespecting those who served and died under its colors. If I look close at the code it doesn't say is kneeling is disrespectful just to tie that back in with the above mentioned protesting. This is what is considered patriotic today. Supporting our country while not supporting the people of our country. That is patriotism today. I am not a patriot it seems. Actually, a few days ago I had a conversation about being a patriot and what it meant to me to serve my country. I will share what I believe I served this country for and what the flag actually stands for for me.
I served this country for those who don't do what they are suppose to do as society expects. I served for the murders, the rapist, the molesters, the cheats, the cons, the druggies, the perverts, embezzlers and any other person or persons performing criminal acts. I served so they could have a fair trial. They could get fair sentencing if found convicted of their crime. Most importantly I served for their equality. You might of found it interesting that I chose all the "bad" folks but it is on purpose because I serve for those whose rights we deem it OK to take away because they don't fit into the mold of society. I served for equality. Yes, equality which brings me to the crux of this blog.
The US Constitution is for every single citizen and legal alien in this country. It is for believers and no-believers, Muslims, Atheist, fat, skinny, vegan, diabetic, tall, short, handicapped, single, straight, bisexual, transsexual, whatever-you-are-sexual. It is for us all. It is about EQUALITY not about special treatment. It doesn't matter if you have a billion in the bank or no bank at all. it is for everyone. It isn't just for our citizens but for those who come to our borders as well. The flag is the symbol of our commitment and unity as a nation. They both represent what I served for and would have died for our ideals of equality. So as you crack a cold one, light a fuse and rock you American Flag onesie while singing drunk man karaoke remember that what makes America great, not again, but just great.
To the people who call themselves patriots and believers in this country I say we are failing at being American. We are failing at being patriots. We are failing at enforcing every Americans rights. I'll leave this with a few things to consider:
1. ALL hate groups are anti-American. They steal from the ideals of a country of unity and only serve to destroy the true strength of America which is its melting pot.
2. No one in this country should be singled out simply by the way he or she looks. Today, we randomly harass Mexican (or Hispanic looking) people because of war on illegals. Yes, there are laws to uphold in our country but stopping and searching someone without probably cause is not enforcing the law. It is nothing more than the Stop-and-Frisk law that NY (I believe) had a few years ago. The only people being stopped-and-frisked were blacks. A few years ago it was Muslims. After Pearl Harbor it was Japanese. Lets not forget Native Americans. No matter who it is happening to it is wrong. I wouldn't want that to be happening to anyone I know no matter their race or color or origin.
3. Make America Great Again is simply stupid. I'll say it flat out. As long as our country fails to treat its people equally and fairly then our country cannot be great AGAIN. We have Veterans killing themselves at a clip of 22 a day as well as many who are homeless. Women are still fighting for the rights of equal pay. We are still demeaning people for their sexual preferences. We are more worried about having an AR-15 than how we protect our children from school shooting after school shooting after school shooting. We are still in a country where a rich mans son can be convicted of raping a woman and get 6 months in jail followed by 3 years probation while a woman shoots a warning shot at her abusive husband and is facing life. I can go on and on with this one but you get the point. America's greatness is in its freedoms and its equality. We need to make America Great, Finally!
4. Stop using the Bible (or parts of it) as the reason the world is messed up. As American history has shown in this country many black men were hanged, tortured and burned in the south and elsewhere by men who claimed to walk with God. God has been used as a weapon to much in the country. Many wars have started over a being that teaches to love one another. You want GOD? Put him or her in your actions. Show us fellowship, brotherhood, community through your faith.
And stop using faith as a reason to bash someone over their sexuality. If a 7 year old can KNOW God then he or she can KNOW their sexuality. It isn't your place, my place or anyone else's place to judge someone's lawful attraction. Love they neighbor, period.
5. Stop speaking hate! Tell us what you love and enjoy. Share your world with everyone. We have a short time on this rock. Filling the hours with hate is very bad idea.
6. The Forefathers did not write the Constitution for everyone. They wrote it for the select few. It evolved, hence the Amendments, as we "the people" got smarter. They could not have even imagined this world today let alone write laws that would govern it for the rest of time. Lets stop making it perfect when it suits us.
I can go on but I want to end with this:
I am a Patriot who stands for those who cannot stand for themselves. For the oppressed and underrepresented. For those who are the top 1% to those who are the bottom 1% financially in this country. I stand for those who seek a better life in this country because in America you can work yourself out of poverty. I stand for police officers to be able to do their job for a grateful public and for the public to be able to trust in the integrity and mission of its police forces. I stand for you. I stand for anyone who wants to be a better person and honestly make their living the right way. I stand for the flag not because I disagree with the protest but because I wore the uniform of this country and I am proud to be part of the solution.
What do you really stand for? Just a thought my friends.