Bill Britton: “Taking a Knee.”

Taking a Knee

Jacksonville Jaguars players kneeling on Sunday, September 24, 2017 during the playing of the national anthem at the first NFL game since President Trump called for players who take a knee to be fired.

Like “taking a knee” during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” flag burning seems truly criminal to many of those who occupy that imaginary space called “mainstream America.” An assault upon either of these symbols is seen by most as an assault leveled against a unifying amalgam of memories, common ideals, and loyalties.

When asked what the flag means to them, most will immediately answer, “Freedom.” But since our history includes a long episode of slavery and the repression of various social and ethnic groups, does not the flag also connote these less palatable traces of national character? Indeed, it can be argued that for some Americans, the flag represents little more than social and economic marginalization.

Once a flag becomes old and worn, or stained, its proper disposal requires burning. How can the court of public opinion distinguish between these ceremonies and those initiated by citizens who view the country, and therefore the flag, as morally worn or stained: its courage turned cowardly, its purity violated, its justice compromised?

A nation must pay the price of tolerance if it is to honor the concept of free expression. A flag, or an anthem, worth its salt as a national symbol need not fear protest in any form, even if that means its immolation or irreverent dissent.

On national holidays, I fly two flags: the national symbol and the Marine Corps Globe and Anchor. As a former Marine, I honor both symbols for various reasons, but they remain just that: symbols of my country and symbols of part of my personal history.

By the way, is “taking a knee” any worse than sitting on your butt, legs up, sipping a Bud, while the National Anthem is being played.

Bill Britton is a freelance writer and formerly an editor for John Hopkins University Press, ABI Research, and Elsevier Science, and is a frequent contributor to Vero Communiqué.

Mr. Britton’s comments are his own and do not reflect the position(s) of Vero Communique.  We have striven to encourage a free and open exchange of opinions. Through discussions like these we can all learn more about the topics themselves and the perspectives of others.


5 thoughts on “Bill Britton: “Taking a Knee.”

  1. Good-oh.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Bill Britton Bayville, NY to Vero Beach, FL “History repeats itself; the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” —Karl Marx Semper Fi


  2. “But since our history includes a long episode of slavery and the repression of various social and ethnic groups, does not the flag also connote these less palatable traces of national character?” It also includes being the only country on earth that fought a civil war during which thousands died to end slavery – but that counts as nothing. Since you brought up the topic, here’s a few questions for you:
    1) When did this country become so bad that men being paid millions decided they needed to make a statement by tearing down one of our traditions? A tradition that has signified unity, not divisiveness.
    2) Did this just happen in the past 10 months? If not, where have these oppressed men been?
    3) What are these ‘brave’ men accomplishing by stomping on a tradition?
    4) People have torn down historic statues and monuments, they’ve demanded the Judeo-Christian religions be stripped from schools and the public square, and now they feel the need to not honor our flag and national anthem – what will be next? Some say we just need to stop playing the Anthem and that’s the end game for many a Marxist, is it not? End the traditions and the religions and silence the people by calling them racists if they speak…that’s the way you end a culture, is it not?
    5) Last, but not least, please tell me what NFL fans/spectators can do that will end the kneeling. While we’re working, paying taxes, raising kids and donating to charities that help the poor – what can we do that will satisfy these men?
    By the way, leave it to you to determine a moral equivalency for this behavior and that of burning the flag in protest. Does it make you feel better about your country?

  3. smehiel: You’ve imputed a number of marginally apropos assumptions into my column whose purpose was simply to proclaim the inviolability of the First Amendment. (But under that Amendment, you have a perfect right to do so.) Taking a knee is similarly both a protest and an assertion of that right. It is also a reaction to Trump’s personal history, which includes discrimination against African Americans in housing rentals; his full-page newspaper ad in 1989 calling for the death penalty for five black and Latino teenagers (later exonerated) in the Central Park jogger case; his championing of the conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was born in Kenya; his retweeting of messages from white supremacists; his outrageous statements about Mexicans and Muslims on the campaign trail. This ugly pattern of behavior conflicts with his February press conference where he claimed that he was “the least racist person.”

    • That’s interesting. Not one football player or supporter attempting to explain why the NFL players are doing this, and I say ‘attempting’ since most have not given a coherent reason, haven’t mentioned your assertions. This has nothing to do with the 1st Amendment and you know it. (In fact, most of the players had no idea they were doing this because of their 1st Amendment rights – they’re just learning that.)
      As you go on to explain, it has everything to do with your not liking the President. For every instance you fall back on to prove that Trump is a racist, I can give you an example of the thousands of minorities his companies have hired, trained and promoted. I can give you a video from 10 or 20 years ago where he says the same things he’s saying now about our exceptional country, foreign policy or national deficits. I can show you his awards from Democrats for his financial support of blacks and the poor.
      Your last comment about ‘legs up, sipping a beer’ sums up your elitist attitude and moral superiority in it all. That’s the moral equivalency that bothers me.
      But what bothers me the most is your comment: “citizens who view the country, and therefore the flag, as morally worn or stained: its courage turned cowardly, its purity violated, its justice compromised?” Really? And this from someone who wore the American military uniform! You, sir, have a lot in common with John Kerry, I’m saddened to say.
      Obviously, blinded by your moral superiority, you can’t see that the NFL and anyone who supports their actions have greatly underestimated the American spirit in this country. You can tear down our history, tear down our religions and call us deplorable racists, but you can’t disrespect our flag and our national anthem. I’m am happy to see the progressives use the NFL fools to do their bidding because none of you will win this and it will make for an even better 2018 and 2020.
      (BTW, you didn’t answer my questions.)

  4. smehiel: Recall that Trump and his father were sued by President Richard Nixon’s Justice Department for illegally refusing to rent apartments to black prospective tenants. Recall that Trump continued to insist that the “Central Park Five” — four black men and one Latino — were guilty of a brutal rape even after DNA evidence had conclusively proved their innocence. Recall that Trump led the “birther” movement, ridiculously claiming that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. Recall his reaction to Charlottesville, where he discerned some “very fine people” among the torch-wielding parade of Ku Klux Klan members and neo-Nazis. The party to all this who does not understand the Constitution is Trump himself. He should begin by reading the First Amendment.

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