I often get questions about the military veteran perspective. It may be because I live in Boulder and there are not many of us here. I don’t mind at all, veterans issues are something I care about and I’m usually happy to discuss. The questions this week are: “How do veterans feel about the NFL players taking a knee?” and “How do you feel about Trump’s reaction?” To start, I’ll say that I am one veteran and not even that important of one, veterans are individuals, each with individual journeys, backgrounds and opinions: I do not speak for all. You may have guessed though that I do have an opinion and I have the right express my view; just like NFL players do.
Let’s start with the criticism of the NFL players kneeling coming directly from the gaudy orange section of The White House:
“NFL players who protest the National Anthem should be fired.” -Donald Trump
First of all, the players are not protesting the national anthem or the flag, they’re protesting DURING the national anthem; yuge difference. The players protesting are protesting racial inequality and injustice. They are protesting the inequality and injustice which is now coming directly from the oval office. Saying NFL players are protesting the flag or the anthem is like saying Samuel Adams and the Boston Tea Party demonstrators were protesting tea. They weren’t saying, “GET THE F#CK OUT OF HERE TEA, WE’RE COFFEE PEOPLE!!” Not at all, they were protesting oppression (thank you middle school history).
Let’s move on to the view of military veterans. The oath of office that military members take, in the very first line says:
“I (name) do solemnly swear to support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…”
What the oath states is that we swore to defend the freedoms depicted in The Constitution and one of those freedoms is the First Amendment, the right to free speech. Not a single military member died for a flag or for the National Anthem, they died defending against threats to the freedoms that those symbols represent. The NFL players (and now owners, coaches, etc..) are exercising the very right that the military swears to defend. If the president could fire these players himself, he would, and that would be significantly more of a violation of the constitution than the fact that players are taking a knee to raise awareness for an important issue. Is there a shitty catch phrase like “you’re fired” for that?
I also have heard Trump say in the past that anyone should be be fired if they don’t do their job well. Um yeah, I totally agree and I think some people much smarter than I are working on that exact issue as we speak but back to the NFL story. Nowhere in the NFL players agreement does it say that standing for the national anthem is part of their job. Now, if Danny Amendola, for example, decides to take a knee in the middle of a crossing route or if Von Miller takes a knee while dropping back into pass coverage, sure, go ahead and fire them. Until then..
I keep two American flags in cases in my home. One was flown over the United States Capitol building and it was given to me when I was commissioned into the Navy. The other was given to my family when my grandfather, also a Navy officer, passed away. Both of those flags have special meaning to me because I associate them with my grandfather and with my own personal journey in the Navy. Those particular flags may be mine but symbols they represent are not mine exclusively. The flag and the national anthem are not owned by the military or military veterans, we are just one group who they represent. The freedoms the flag represents are for ALL, yes, even the people we disagree with. How the President of the United States doesn’t understand that is mind blowing. In fact, wasn’t America founded on dissent? Now that I think about it, I wonder if Trump thinks the Boston Tea Party was actually about the colonialists distaste for tea. I can almost hear him saying, “Tea had very low ratings in those days. Very very low ratings”. Good thing someone wrote a book specifically for Trump and it’s even orange:
The flag and the National Anthem mean many things to many people. None of those people’s view are more or less worthy than the others. I don’t find a single theme with the NFL players (and now owners) protests directed anywhere near veterans or the military. In fact, I find the players protest to represent one of the exact freedoms I swore to defend. I can’t speak for all veterans but I, for one, am not the least bit offended by their protests. Actually, I find them as Patriotic as a fourth quarter, Tom Brady led, inside the 2-minute warning, offensive strike.