So today as I've been trying (and failing) to find joy in watching the Lions and Tigers, I'm reading through my Twitter feed and Facebook posts for the past 24 hours, and in no time, have been brought back to the grim reality that is the state of our nation. What has me going this time isn't Hillary or Trump (directly, anyway). It's the sadly not-so-surprising number of self-proclaimed real, righteous American "patriots" who are complaining about Jim Harbaugh and Mark Dantonio for supporting their players' right to peaceful protest during the National Anthem on Saturday.
Now, I haven't written in months here. Life has been busy and in the free time I'd normally spend writing, I've been in the thick of co-founding a non-profit and trying to get that off the ground. When I have something to say, though, that remotely touches on the sports and country I love, I guarantee I'll be back out here to say it. And today, this #RespectTheFlag thing has driven me to the keyboard.
First of all, I want to say I have the utmost respect (with a "c") for both Harbaugh and Dantonio in this situation. Yes, I still feast on Spartan disrespekt and I reveled in their demise yesterday. In this one single instance, however, I'll give Dantonio due credit. Both he and Harbaugh GET IT. They understand the vast difference between a flag and a song and a country. They understand what this country is supposed to be about and they let their players be real citizens of this country yesterday. There is very little more American than what they allowed and what their players did and anyone who thinks otherwise needs to examine their history a little more closely. That is unless you really think the American colonists were wrong for their rampant disrespect of the lawful government in England and their undoubted leader, King George III. Or that earlier Americans were un-American when they fought the status quo for voting rights, civil rights, women's rights, and even your right to legally open a beer and drink it at your tailgate. Because if you think Harbaugh and Dantonio were wrong and the players in protest were wrong, that's kind of where your logic is leading.
The flag is just a symbol made in nylon or polyester. The anthem is just a moving song that most of us can't sing properly. The United States is so much more than either of those things. To be an American, well, it's something that's inside all of us, though none of us experience it in exactly the same manner. The problem is, many people are starting to question the patriotism of those whose American experience and patriotic behavior isn't 100% locked in goose step with their own. There can only be one "patriot" in this country and it feels to me like that person is a white, gun-toting, Republican, Christian extremist who "respects" the flag and the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution, but completely disrespects true Christian and American ideals in about every other way possible. (And before I get nailed for this, let me announce that I'm a white, Independent, imperfect Christian who wouldn't mind owning a firearm or a fur coat.)
Well, wake up "patriots". One of the most fundamental rights we have as Americans in "the land of the free and the home of the brave" is the right to free speech and peaceful assembly. We have the right to question our government, to call foul on the things it does or doesn't do. We have the right, through our political and legal system, to evolve our country and make it better for every American, not just for those who feel their own way is the only way or for those who can afford to dictate what they want. Rights apply to all citizens, not just the ones you like or agree with.
There is no law telling us we have to like or support what everyone else says or does. I don't like neo-Nazis, but I think they have a right to assemble and speak because I have a right not to listen to them. I don't like some politicians, but I think they have a right to their bat-shit crazy platform because I have a right to believe in someone else's. And where is the law regulating a person's posture in front of the flag and requiring a hearty singing of the anthem? I can't find any such thing.
I have more than a couple questions for real patriots. Why aren't you protesting the American living in my town who flies the flags of at least three foreign countries on his porch? Why aren't you protesting the guys wearing hats, guzzling beer and cat-calling the hot singer while the anthem is playing at a sporting event? Why were you mad when people joked disrespectfully about one president (W) but you've called his successor, his successor's wife, and even his successor's daughters the worst slurs you can call a human being? Why aren't your Christian values incensed by all the unfair judgment of everyone going on in this country today? I thought judgment was God's responsibility. Hmmm? Buehler?
Maybe we all need to practice less ignorance and do a bit more ignoring (of those things we don't agree with.) Kind of "live and let live."
There's a picture that sums up the kind of nation where people are segregated by those who are superior and those who are inferior. A nation where you walk in lockstep with your neighbors and your government or you pay the consequences. A nation where you have to salute the right flag and salute it correctly and you have to sing the national song and be the citizen your government demands you to be, even if it means hurting those who aren't like you just to save your own ass. It kind of looks like this:
I thank Jim Harbaugh and Mark Dantonio for their understanding of American freedom and their (and their players') bravery in standing up for it. This country would be in a lot better shape if everyone did.
No Go Blue today. Just blue.