Once again, my very real concerns about President Trump and the 1st Amendment are coming true before our very eyes.
Let me say this, I do not believe that the NFL and MLB players “protesting” the National Anthem are doing the right thing. They are misguided and they are hurting their brand. They don’t care, because they earn in a year more than most of their customers will earn in several lifetimes.
Now, after a surreal Sunday of protests, boo’s, and even Jerry “No Kneeling on My Team” Jones kneeling with his players, the President has tweeted out once again his disdain for the idea of freedom of speech, particularly speech with which he disagrees. He demanded that the NFL put in place a rule to ban players from kneeling for the anthem.
Again, I oppose the kneeling protests, but nothing has made me more likely to join it than the one person charged with the faithful execution of our laws and upholding our Constitution telling people that they cannot freely speak their protest. The idea that the President of the United States would call – again – for the banning of free speech is something worth protesting in my view.
Sadly, this is not the first time Mr. Trump has called for limits on speech with which he disagrees. Nor will it be the last. The real danger is that he is playing to nationalism. Be careful in your inference of what I am saying. I am not saying that he is appealing to white racism. But he is appealing to the average American’s sense of nationalistic pride and reverence for those symbols of our freedoms, liberty and sacrifice.
He is using our feelings about those valuable and meaningful symbols to drive a further wedge between those who – for whatever reason – disagree. Which is, at the heart of the matter, why we need free speech in the first place, to resolve our grievances.
The 1st Amendment prohibits the government – at any level – from restricting speech (with some well defined exceptions which are not applicable here). Now, the leader of the government is calling for just such restrictions. Not that long ago, he demanded that Flag burners be punished and have their citizenship revoked.
He was wrong then. He is wrong now. I have said from the beginning that his callous disregard for the liberties our Constitution protects worries me. Now he has found an issue with which he can resonate with those who love this nation, and by speaking in sound bites and tweets, never face critical questions or be called upon to elucidate his reasoning beyond wrapping it in the flag and sloganeering.
Those of us who hold these symbols in reverence see one side denigrating them, and by extension, ourselves. The other side (the President) now uses them to emotionally manipulate us into believing that what we want is to simply force the other side to shut the fuck up.
As a Constitutionally minded conservative; as a veteran; as an American, is that what I really want? To use the force of government to shut the other side up? How can any person who says that they support the Constitution accept that?
Instead of using the forces of the free market, which the President supposedly supports, to correct this issue, he instead chooses to use the power of government to intervene and try to manipulate. Never understanding that he is actually only accomplishing three things. First, he is causing ever more resentment to the protesters, who now dig in their heels and make no room for compromise. Second, he further divides the two sides by playing on emotionally charged jingoism’s and nationalism which most of those who oppose the protests like, but struggle to articulate why they mean so much to them.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the President is distracting from the real issues that need correction and also divide us.
I say this again to be clear – I believe that kneeling for the National Anthem is insulting to those who served this nation and those who scarified friends, family, limbs and lives for the securing of liberty. I disagree with you for doing so and I will tell you that to your face.
You are insulting and offending me.
And the only thing that would offend me and insult me more than what the protesters are doing, is my government telling them that they cannot do so.
I will oppose that with my knee and even if need be, my life. Because my oath, my faith, and my allegiance is to the Constitution and it’s liberties, not to the President of the United States.