In 2008, some super-patriotic Republicans took President Obama to task because he wasn’t wearing an American flag pin on his lapel. “Un-American!” they yelled. “He hates America” the more mindless among them declared. Emotionally involved in the campaign as I was, I presumed to speak for the President offering a reply he might make, which read in part:
It is precisely because I do honor the American flag – and the nation and the democratic principles it represents – that I decline to wear the pin. Put simply, I choose to have my actions speak for my patriotism, rather than an object that anyone can purchase for a dollar, which ascribes to the user a wide range of beliefs, principles, and values he or she may or may not share.
A similar value applies today to those who choose to call attention to a great injustice by kneeling during the national anthem at football games. It is precisely the great honor we accord the national anthem – and the American flag – that gives such a contrary action its power to draw attention to an issue of significance. Colin Kaepernick’s knee is a cry for the justice represented by the flag and the anthem to be accorded to the seemingly wanton killing of black men by (usually white) law enforcement officers.
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