(Psst — it’s not about the flag or the military, and it never has been.)


I’m often reminded of Thomas Jefferson’s words:

“Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

To avoid misinformed confusion, readers old enough to remember the Vietnam War era will recall Tricky Dicky Nixon’s law-and-order platform, as a blunt missile aimed squarely against “anti-American” war protesters (attacking the flag and our soldiers overseas) and African-Americans (being all uppity about rights and freedoms).

A space alien (or Mr. Spock) might ask: But was the overseas war just, and did the civil rights protesters have a point?

If you’re saying to yourself, well, I never protest, and when I do it is done tastefully, so as to be inoffensive to others … you just might be revealing yourself as a privileged societal cog unable to fathom injustice.

Would you have participated in the American Revolution?

If so, on which side?

You see, etiquette typically goes out the window when TJ’s tipping point occurs, as it did in America in 1776, or in Russia in 1917.

Of course, the plain fact is that NFL protests have been breathtakingly sober and polite. If you’re upset about free speech and conscience, but not troubled by the mangled brains of players who perform so you can remain safely inside your bubble, there isn’t much more anyone can say except “dude, I’m so very sorry for you.”

It’s Not About the Flag or the Military. It Never Has Been.

When athletes protest during the national anthem, they are acting on behalf of people who can’t speak as loudly.

By Andrew Cohen (Brennan Center for Justice)

President Trump’s weekend attack on athletes exercising their constitutional right to protest followed the longtime model used by police unions. Instead of acknowledging the legitimacy of the complaint that there is discrimination and misconduct in policing — Trump, like the unions, changed the subject, lashing out at the athletes as unpatriotic, even anti-American. The protests were mischaracterized as attacks on the flag, the anthem, the military, or the nation itself. As if it were ordained somewhere that one must stand, as opposed to kneel, for the anthem.

This is nonsense, of course. There is nothing more American than protesting injustice when it is manifest, nothing more patriotic than speaking for those who do not have a voice or whose voices are rarely heard. When people protest police misconduct, and racial disparities in our criminal justice systems, they are acting to improve the conditions of their fellow Americans, acting to force necessary reform on people (like Trump) and institutions (like police unions) that resist this change. This is “anti-American” or unpatriotic only if you believe the protections of the First Amendment are overrated or unnecessary. And only if you believe it’s unpatriotic to want to make America more just …