Everyone’s Flag to Burn, Salute or Turn your Back
In a 5-4 Supreme Court decision supported by conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice William Brennan wrote in part: [Gregory Lee] “Johnson was convicted for engaging in expressive conduct. The State’s interest in preventing breaches of the peace does not support his conviction because Johnson’s conduct did not threaten to disturb the peace,” said Brennan.
About four years ago, I took one of my grandsons to his first baseball game, accompanied by his father. Traditionally, the National Anthem starts as the echo of the public address announcer’s voice is still bouncing off the walls of the concrete and steel edifice. PLEASE RISE FOR THE PLAYING OF OUR NATIONAL ANTHEM! People look to the outfield flag waving over the centerfield scoreboard, remove their hats, cover their hearts and stand at semi-attention. My grandchild was unaware of this tradition, so my son quickly removed his son’s hat and demonstrated with his own how you respect the flag. So, three generations of black men stood, and saluted the flag.
I tell this story because how one shows respect is not a monolithic endeavor and standing for the flag for me is claiming ownership of a country I have earned. For my son, who stridently supported Colin Kaepernick when he knelt, it was his form of respect and protest; like me, he wanted his peers in the stadium to know this too belonged to him. My grandson may kneel one day, stand with his hand over his heart one day or burn the flag—one day—but it will be his decision because his father, my father, and my father’s father earned it and the American Constitution guarantees us the right.
The latest phony controversy surrounding the Constitutional right of protest by Olympian Gwen Berry is both galling, appalling, and borne of idiocy. Ms. Berry, a two-time Olympian, is the most recent tip of a dull spear of racism wielded by conservatives. I suppose kudos are due to Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas who has learned that incorporating the word ‘left’ in his racism is a good facsimile for his fascist attacks. Former Army Ranger and ex-NFL defensive end for the New England Patriots, Jake Bequette, wants Ms. Berry canceled from participating in the Olympics because—in his words— “if Gwen Berry wants to, you know, if she hates this country so much. Then she should quit the U.S. Olympic team and go compete somewhere else,” said Bequette. This despite Ranger Bequette fighting for the rights of every American to exercise their right to peacefully protest (or maybe it is just certain people).
The fallback position for white Republicans seems more often than not, to advocate that if people of color cannot overlook continued aggressions toward them, they are not Americans. This week New York Democratic representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was called a “little communist.” Reps. Tlaib, Pressley, and Omar have been repeatedly invited to leave the country. One hundred and twenty Republicans (up from 113 last year) voted against removing statues commemorating racists from the Capitol Rotunda yesterday. The same Republican party, who en masse, is against investigating the Capitol insurrectionists who beat police officers with the flag, are now being defended by the likes of Republican reps. Paul Gosar and Mo Brooks. So when athletes take a knee, bow their heads, or stay in locker rooms to peacefully protest, Conservatives lose their flag-waving minds. Destroying hundreds of years of Americana, and literally defecating on the walls of its history is acceptable as long as it means ‘taking the country back.’ My question is back to where?
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