Lately, we have witnessed the end result of the ignorance of not only our president, but the general public when it comes to understanding our basic freedoms, especially freedom of speech. The First Amendment assures all of us we are free to worship as we choose, think as we believe, and speak out against who or what we want in any way that is peaceful and yet, for millions in this nation, this is wrong.
It’s easy to support free speech when you are in agreement with the person speaking out and the manner in which he might protest. Supporting someone whose beliefs and methods run contradictory to yours is a different beast and this is what has become the problem in this country.
Our president believes the SOB’s in the NFL who take a knee during the National Anthem should be fired on the spot even though doing so violates the First Amendment. He, and the supporters of his stance, think they are disrespecting all the men and women who have served in our military, many who have sacrificed their lives in the process. Because this is what they believe, they feel our servicemen are owed a certain level of respect by requiring athletes to stand and salute the flag during the playing of the National Anthem. In a perfect world, this would be nice, but freedom is anything but perfect.
Trump’s supporters seem to feel the only reason the National Anthem is played is to honor our military men and women. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is played to honor all the freedoms all our citizens have whether they served in battle or play in the NFL. There is no law requiring people to stand and honor the flag and there likely never will because such a law violates our freedom of speech. Our government is not above its citizens and is not allowed to pass any law that bypasses our free will in the name of political dogma or sagging poll numbers.
Our president has less respect for the laws and freedoms of this land than the players in the NFL protesting him or any other cause they are pissed off about. Trump has no problem deliberately lying to the public, living by a different set of rules, and using his voice to make threats to leaders of other nations or groups within our borders, but when it comes to protesting him and the mood he has created since assuming office, there simply is no room in America for it.
However, this goes beyond the White House. Some people would have you believe free speech is under attack on college campuses, especially those that lean leftward like UC Berkeley. This is not the case. Just because a conservative college group decides to schedule what they call a free speech event and line up the most conservative voices they can find is canceled, it has nothing to do with free speech being attacked. It is not the job of a college to pay the cost of crowd control or peace keeping forces to ensure the safety of the speakers whose intent is to cause controversy. If anything, it is the job of the on campus club or organization to provide the people they invite with a safe speaking environment. If they can’t and the event has to be canceled, it has nothing to do with squashing free speech and everything to do with that club’s lack of funds to cover the cost of security.
The very idea we need events called “Free Speech Week” in this country is a sure sign of our poor understanding of our freedoms. Every week is a free speech week in the United States thanks in large part to our Founding Fathers having the intelligence to ensure it as our greatest freedom. How often do you see protesters freely demonstrate outside the Kremlin, Beijing, or Pyongyang?
Not that long ago, our athletes and entertainers were accused of having no social conscience. They were accused of choosing to remain corporate sell outs who went to great lengths to say little about social issues and who worried more about their shoe deals or record sales than people sleeping on the streets.
At the same time, the NFL came under attack for its blind support of our military. Some felt they overstepped their bounds when presenting pregame fly overs, military bands and honor guards, and announcements voicing their support of the men and women serving our nation. We never saw this stuff during Vietnam. Back then, disrespect for our government was shown by spitting on soldiers at airports when they returned from battle.
It has been the Vietnam vet who has taught us there are other ways to voice your displeasure than taking it out on the people who choose to serve. Taking a knee during the national anthem is far more respectful than unloading a mouthful of spit.
Unfortunately, we now have a mindset if you did not serve you can’t make a free statement if it involves our flag. This belief, unfortunately, does not include the Confederate flag since many Americans who oppose people of color protesting life in America seem to have no problem waving the stars and bars in the faces of the oppressed. They complain, demonstrate, and in some cases resort to violence or hate based crimes when they see the free society they live in awaken from their Neanderthal thinking and begin removing these flags from state government offices.
Americans were angered when people took to the streets and destroyed shops in protests of police shootings. These same Americans didn’t like it when protesters showed up and spoke out at political rallies or when they organized peaceful demonstrations. Now, they do not like seeing people taking a knee during the National Anthem. Through it all, they have made their voices heard and made it clear they take offense to anyone who takes a stand on any issue they disagree with.
Now that players are risking their financial futures and job security and the NFL risks angering fans who have little understanding of free speech, people are freely speaking out. I know people who are boycotting the NFL over all of this. Viewership has declined, stadiums are no longer selling out, and there is talk the NFL’s days are numbered.
Perhaps this will be the case. In a free society, each of us is allowed to decide for ourselves who and what we believe in and right now, based on polls, fewer people are believing in our president. He is a desperate man who knows time is quickly running out for him to be anything other than a sad footnote in history books.
He is grasping for anything that will boost his plummeting numbers and figures why not go red, white, and blue and support the flag while ripping people who kneel in protest. The problem is, he does not believe in what Old Glory really represents and is trying to find ways to divide this nation further and then systematically strip his detractors of the the very freedom the Stars and Stripes really represents.
Freedom is inconvenient. Whether you are serving the nation, protesting in an unpopular way, or losing friends over arguments about free speech, freedom comes with a price. That price may well begin increasing if we continue to allow our president to have free reign to attack the very building blocks this nation was founded on. It may require more than celebrity athletes, musicians, and actors to speak out. It may mean you involve yourself directly into this mess.
Yes, you are free to do nothing, if that is what you choose. But before you make that choice, ask yourself, can you freely accept the outcome of a war against our basic freedoms if it results in your freedom to speak, think, and believe being taken from you? If you are not, then I suggest you make your voice heard and send the message our freedom to speak out against what we perceive to be wrong is never going to be handed over to a president with little understanding and even less respect for the First Amendment. Otherwise, you might end up supporting one who is counting on your lack of respect for people and general ignorance to destroy all that this nation was built on.
Photos are YouTube screenshots
Top photo: Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones takes a knee with his players before the National Anthem
Jim is a life long resident of California and retired school teacher with 30 years in public education. Jim earned his BA in History from CSU Chico in 1981 and his MA in Education from Azusa Pacific University in 1994. He is also the author of Teaching The Teacher: Lessons Learned From Teaching. Jim considers himself an equal opportunity pain in the ass to any political party, group, or individual who looks to profit off of hypocrisy. When he is not pointing out the conflicting words and actions of our leaders, the NFL commissioner, or humans in general, he can be found riding his bike for hours on end while pondering his next article. Jim recently moved to Camarillo, CA after being convinced to join the witness protection program.