“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America” — words I learned as a child and own as an adult. I love our country and I have great respect for our flag and what it represents. My respect for our country and our flag has only deepened over the years as I have traveled extensively to more than forty countries around the globe, including many places where freedom and opportunity is suppressed.
In recent months, displays of disrespect for our national anthem and our flag have increased. Most notably, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has repeatedly refused to stand for the playing of the national anthem in protest of what he deems are wrongdoings against African-Americans and other minorities.
Following the presidential election, some who were unhappy about the election results expressed their personal frustration and anger by, among other things, burning the American flag. While both Kaepernick’s actions and those of angry protesters who have burned our flag fall under the umbrella of freedom of speech, I personally believe they are the wrong actions.
Our flag is a powerful symbol both at home and around the world.
The American flag is a reminder that, in this country, we have the right to vote for whatever candidate we choose. We have the right to campaign on behalf of our chosen candidates, to dialogue and debate about issues, and ultimately to cast a single vote. But while the flag guarantees that we have the right to do so, it does not guarantee the results. So, why burn the flag?
The American flag is a reminder that, in this country, we have the right to express our views before and after an election. We have the freedom to peacefully protest, express our respective views, hold candlelight vigils, and shout as loud as we’d like. But, the flag does not give us the freedom to wantonly destroy the property of those in the paths of our demonstrations. So, why burn the flag?
The American flag is a reminder that, in this country, we have opportunity to right wrongs. We have the right and the freedom to work as hard as we want and to invest as much as we want in the causes that resonate in the deepest chambers of our heart. But the flag does not guarantee us the results. The results are up to us and our determination to put our money where our mouth is and our time and efforts toward the change we desire. So, why burn the flag?
The American flag is a reminder that, in this country, every citizen has the right and the freedom to pursue the American Dream. As a kid, my father told me that I must work hard to achieve what I want and that I was not entitled to anything just because I happen to be a minority. So, I worked hard. I kept my hand to the plow. I have always earned an honest wage. The flag reminds me that I must work hard to pursue the American Dream but that the American Dream is not something that will just be handed to me. So, why burn the flag?
The American flag represents freedoms and opportunities that are available in this country and not necessarily other countries. If Kaepernick showed a similar disdain for the Cuban national anthem and flag he would certainly be transferred to a smaller playing field sans multimillion dollar contract. The same would hold true in other nations around the planet both for Kaepernick and flag burners.
The American flag is a reminder of a depth of courage and sacrifice far greater than Colin Kaepernick has ever made or that anyone who burns the flag may ever understand. Our flag is still flying because of the sacrifices made by countless men and women in uniform who courageously moved in the direction of harm’s way on our behalf. These individuals respected our symbols of freedom. They understood that the American flag speaks to rights and not results. We would do well to remember that.