We have always stood for the National Anthem. We have never failed to stand and
put our hand over our heart and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. For us, we take great pride
in this country and in the American flag, the symbol of this great land. We have talked about
what it must be like to stand at the Olympics and having the flag raised while the National
Anthem is playing and how it must feel and the pride one must get. If fact, we wonder if
there could be anything in sport that comes close to that moment.
But that is us. That is us, even though we have had to experience some antisemitism
in our lives from this country. Sometimes this antisemitism is in the form of comments made
by others and sometimes it’s just a feeling that one gets when realizing that the Christian
holidays are American holidays. Or, the subtleties of hearing that this country was formed
as a Christian country. Regardless, this country may not be perfect and at times someone that
is not white and Christian can feel like an outsider, it is still the best place on earth to live and
the place that we are proud to be part of and citizens of. But what makes us most proud are
not the physical boundaries of the United States and its borders. It is not that we are the most
powerful nation to ever be part of this earth. No, what makes us most proud and why we
salute it is what the flag stands for. In fact, when one does the Pledge of Allegiance, they
must recite these words: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and
to the Republic for which it stands.”
We are not pledging allegiance to a piece of material but rather to the republic for
which it stands. What this republic stands for more than anything is freedom of choice,
freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, freedom of expression and freedom to disagree.
So when many talk about how un-American and how offensive it is to not stand for the
Pledge of Allegiance, nothing could be more un-American than their criticism. If that flag
stands for anything, it stands for the right of someone not to pledge allegiance to it, not to
salute it, and to not agree with what it stands for.
Obviously, we are speaking about the trend that is sweeping the nation, of athletes
refusing to stand as a sign of their concern, their disgust, their begging for dialogue,
involving the shooting of black citizens by law enforcement. Their protest in this form, if
anything, is an exercise of their Constitutional Rights, and if anything, an American gesture.
This country was founded in protest of the King’s edicts, high-handed manner and
authoritarian rule towards the colonies. This country was founded on dissent. This country
was founded on the belief that ordinary citizens had the right to protest. If these are the
fundamental tenets and clauses of this country, then any claim that it is un-American misses
the point as to what it is to be an American and what America stands for. Having said that,
those that claim that it is un-American have every right to do so and to express their feelings,
but they are wrong to believe their point of view must be the only point of view. What makes
us stronger as a country are the varying thoughts, the varying positions and the dialogue that
those varying positions cause us to have.
Those people who have failed to salute the flag or stand for the anthem are crying out
for dialogue. They are crying out for those of us who are not black, in a white society, to
understand. They are crying out for white America to realize that “driving while black” is
not just a comedic tag line but something that they endure every day of their lives. They are
crying out for white America to understand that although many states are now passing laws
that allow open carrying of firearms by its citizens, that these laws only pertain to whites.
Because they know very well that as black Americans, if they walk around and have these
same open carry firearms, their life expectancy goes drastically down. They are crying out
to white America to say that not all of us are black thugs that you need to be scared of. They
are crying out to America that some of us are hard working, good people who want to raise
a family and do not want to feel that our lives are in danger just because we are black.
Before these people are criticized, as the song goes “walk a mile in my shoes.” No
one can understand what it feels like to be another. No white person can understand what
it feels like to be a black American. We can sympathize and we can lend support, but by the
color of our skin, we cannot relate. So although we stand and salute the flag and although
we are very, very proud to sing the National Anthem, we must also be very proud of those
Americans and those who are predominantly black, who are willing to exercise their
Constitutional rights, in the face of criticism, and call attention to the plight of black
Americans, by not standing, by not saluting, and by protesting.