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We need to give more worth to the values and ideals that stand behind the American flag, the pledge, and the singing of the national anthem, and less weight to the symbols themselves.Yes, symbols and words matter, but actions and principles matter more, and we obscure the real issues when we stop an important conversation short by calling it unpatriotic or un-American because it wasn’t done “the right way,” however that might be.
Much of the anger over Kaepernick’s kneeling centers on his supposed disrespect to soldiers who fought so the national anthem would continue to have meaning.
Yet a 2004 Harris Interactive study found that nearly two-thirds of Americans don’t even know the words to the “Star-Spangled Banner.” More worrisome, fewer than half of Americans can name the three branches of government and more people know who Paula Abdul is than what the electoral college is.
Douglas follows a long line of athletes who have been criticized for not giving proper weight to the traditional rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at sporting events.
Yet, the conflation of American symbols, like the flag and the national anthem, with American values is harmful, and takes away from an honest reflection on patriotism.
Conservative pundit Tomi Lahren summed up this sentiment by saying, “Colin, if this country disgusts you so much, leave.
I guarantee there are thousands and thousands of people around the world who would gladly take your spot.” This reaction to Kaepernick kneeling is part of a larger trend of protesters being silenced by accusations of un-Americanism.This raises the question: who is displaying more patriotism, the sports fans who half-heartedly mouth the words to the national anthem without any true reflection on what they are saying, or the person who loves America enough to admit that it has flaws and cares enough to call attention to them?Who is dishonoring those who fought for our country, the person indignantly pretending to hold a monopoly on knowledge of what America is and should be while failing to understand significant American values and institutions, or the person who criticizes America when she is wrong and applauds her when she is right?Gallup found that approximately 80 percent of Americans celebrate the 4th of July, the anniversary of American independence, with barbecues, parades, and fireworks, while patriotic blockbusters like are a perennial presence in theaters.But what does it really mean to be an American patriot today?Our culture of consumer patriotism—owning a flag, going to see the latest movie, having a 4th of July barbeque—only scratches the surface of American values and ideals, and merely having a flag on your bumper sticker is an insufficient way to demonstrate you are a true patriot.Loving America means recognizing America’s flaws and, in the true American spirit, constantly striving to make America better, not criticizing those who call attention to those flaws as in some way transgressing on our idea of patriotism.In recent weeks, controversy has erupted over San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the national anthem.He chose to kneel to protest the treatment of minorities, especially recent incidents of police brutality against African-Americans.Undisputedly, America is one of the most patriotic countries on earth.According to the Pew Research Center, 90 percent of Americans identify as “very patriotic” while 62 percent of Americans display the flag at home, at work, or on their cars.