It is not.
We remember quite well the controversy nationwide over the so-called 'Flag Burning Amendment' since it was introduced and debated during the time we were serving in the US Congress in the late 1980s/early 1990s.
In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled in a split 5-4 decision that burning the US flag in a protest was protected by the First Amendment.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, said this at the time:
“The hard fact is that sometimes we must make decisions we do not like. We make them because they are right, right in the sense that the law and the Constitution, as we see them, compel the result...And so great is our commitment to the process that, except in the rare case, we do not pause to express distaste for the result, perhaps for fear of undermining a valued principle that dictates the decision. This is one of those rare cases.
Though symbols often are what we ourselves make of them, the flag is constant in expressing beliefs Americans share, beliefs in law and peace and that freedom which sustains the human spirit. The case here today forces recognition of the costs to which those beliefs commit us. It is poignant but fundamental that the flag protects those who hold it in contempt”This is a tough issue for many Americans to parse through and grasp.
On the one hand, the flag is a symbol for freedom that millions of Americans have sacrificed their life and limb for over the past 2 centuries so we can enjoy those freedoms today.
For many Americans, especially those who have ever served in the military or have had family members serve and/or die or be wounded while in combat serving our country, kneeling during the national anthem is perceived as being a profound act of disrespect for their sacrifice and honor of duty regardless of what the protester might be saying they are protesting against at the time.
On the other hand, many people hold a 'list of grievances' against things in American life they consider to be 'unfair' or 'unjust' and feel that protesting against the flag is one way they can express their displeasure with the way things are today.
Colin Kaepernick said he felt moved to kneel during the national anthem to show his support for protesters who were protesting shootings of African-Americans by white police officers around the nation. However, when pressed, he did say that he held soldiers and the military in high esteem and this protest was in no way directed towards them.
That is the problem with many protests. You don't really get the chance to parse out the reasons and the targets of a simple act such as kneeling down or burning the flag and then saying later: 'Well, I only meant it to mean what I meant it to mean'
We don't disagree with anyone's right to protest almost anything in the United States of America. If we had not had our inherent right to freedom as enumerated in the Declaration of Independence, which was really an extended 'list of grievances' against the King of England, we wouldn't have fought the War of Independence to gain those freedoms and would have been content to just obey anything the King wanted to throw at us and we'd be sipping tea every afternoon at 3 pm instead of guzzling coffee at Starbucks all the time.
But there are 2 other things that such 'freedom of speech' has guaranteed every American citizen that many seem to have forgotten for some reason:
- The right to not listen.
- The right to disagree.
1) Turn off the TV and go for a hike or play a round of golf; or
2) Stop buying expensive tickets to go to a professional football game and throw the ball around the backyard with your kids or grandkids.
Or you can watch the opening ceremonies and either acknowledge that the athlete is expressing some legitimate concerns about American life or just ignore it and get ready for the big game.
Everyone has a lot of freedom when it comes to speech in America, don't they? 100% of the right to speak freely doesn't lie solely with the protester.
We guess there could be a law passed to prevent people from kneeling during the national anthem. Or a constitutional amendment offered to do the same.
But maybe the best course of action to take might be to have people from all sides of any controversial issue meet to discuss the issues with all the facts on the table and try to come up with complicated solutions to very complex matters such as the unrest in many inner cities when it comes to interactions with police.
We might be sounding like a broken record by now but we don't think there is any substitute for rational, enlightened civil discourse and compromise when it comes to living in a diverse democratic republic such as the United States of America.
Maybe that is too much to be asking for in this day of hyper-ventilating TV and radio talk show hosts and super-partisan newspapers and news media outlets. Political parties on both sides and news media outlets are making way too much money over fanning the flames of political discord to be really all that interested in peace and love and harmony.
We have long thought that one of the best things that could happen to any super-partisan news media or talk show personality would be for them to run for any political office and THEN return to their line of work after such an experience.
As one of our sons told us after he came off the field after missing what we thought was an easy shot while playing in a 3rd-grade lacrosse game in snow flurries in late fall in a Northern Virginia off-season game:
'It is not as easy as it looks, Dad!'
So it is with running for public office. It will take real leaders with real leadership abilities and talent who have respect from supporters and opponents alike to lead us out of these contentious situations where partisans on both sides have every reason to not want to seek a solution and make gains at the polls this fall.
Perhaps the 'best protest' you could make as a private citizen would be to throw your hat into the ring and run for political office and show us how mature, sober and serious adult leaders can lead us to concrete solutions in the political arena instead of watching others just protest and inflame things.
You might just win, you know. And a grateful nation would applaud wildly.