Tags: national anthem | protest | kneel | statues | monuments | flag

National Anthem Knee-Takers Defacing the Ultimate Monument

National Anthem Knee-Takers Defacing the Ultimate Monument
Some members of the Oakland Raiders sit on the bench during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Md., Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

By Thursday, 28 September 2017 03:28 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Like most conservatives, I champion the right of anyone to protest and speak about virtually anything, and it really is irrelevant if I’m offended or “triggered” (whatever that means) or just really pissed off. That’s why I was initially taken aback by the conservative uproar about the players taking a knee during the National Anthem at NFL games. Why has it touched such a nerve?

The reaction only can be understood in relation to our most recent cultural battle over statues and monuments. We are in the midst of the Great Statue Purge of 2017, the beginnings of our own miniature version of the Cultural Revolution. I’m not referring to the controversy surrounding Civil War monuments; one can totally understand why many people are not eager to commemorate Jefferson Davis, whose primary claim to fame is leading a pro-slavery rebellion against the United States. What has conservatives on edge is it didn’t stop there. There are now calls to remove monuments to virtually all historical figures from prior centuries. Peter Stuyvesant must go because he was an anti-Semite. The statue of Christopher Columbus should be removed from Columbus Circle in Manhattan because of his mistreatment of Native Americans. The Jefferson Memorial should be defunded because Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. Indeed, there are similar calls to discredit George Washington and many of the Founding Fathers for the same reason. Perhaps Mount Rushmore should be demolished. Mayor de Blasio of New York City has even initiated a review of all of the city’s statues and monuments, and we breathlessly await the proposal that Columbus Circle and Columbus Avenue be renamed for him.

The removal of a monument to a historical figure is more than an artistic statement. The monument is a symbol of the person, and removing it says quite literally that when evaluating this person’s life in totality, we conclude he or she should not be commemorated. Given that preserving a nation’s historical memory has an independent value, the judgment of history regarding this person must be on balance even more negative. Given that few leaders of past centuries shared contemporary views regarding race, gender, and sexual orientation, almost all are under fire today. If the heroes of American history are being said to be of questionable merit, what does that say about our country? The bottom line is a portion of society is condemning our entire past, and by extension our claim to be a great nation.

Now enter the NFL controversy. The problem is not that there is a protest. Protests and rallies properly happen all the time in America, and one can believe America is the greatest country in the world as I do and still protest to change certain aspects. If the players had gone to a Black Lives Matter rally after the games, there would be little uproar. If they wore pins to raise awareness of racism, they might get praise. Although some of the players have said they were trying to raise awareness of very specific issues, it is not the image they created.

Regardless of what was in the players heads, taking a knee during the playing of the National Anthem when there is a giant flag on the field creates an indelible image that sends a clear message. The flag is the ultimate monument, not to a certain individual or period in our history, but obviously to America in its totality. Regardless of intent, taking a knee says unequivocally that if you consider the entirety of America’s history and its future potential, America is just not worthy of enough respect to stand up. Indeed, the kneeling is an affirmative act that adds an exclamation point to the insult. This is why the nation is at war over this. It’s not about the NFL or its players. It’s not about Black Lives Matter. It has become about whether we can say that America in its totality is good. That America is worth fighting and dying for.

The venue matters too. This is not a protest occurring on an obscure street corner. The NFL on Sunday is functionally the ultimate American public square. This rejection of America’s greatness could not be more public, dramatic, or emphatic.

Notwithstanding all of the above, I reject the call to boycott the NFL because to me the value of free speech is paramount. (Ironically, the players do not have the right to free speech while they are “at work,” representing their employer, and literally wearing their employer’s uniform. Technically, the NFL and its owners are exercising their right to free speech by allowing this speech). However, I would urge a boycott of the NFL if in the future, as it has done in the past, it prohibits its players from wearing a decal or colorful shoes to fight breast cancer, commemorate fallen police officers or 9/11, or bring awareness to mental illness and domestic violence. The NFL has a right to speak as it wants, but if it chooses to allow taking a knee while censoring most other speech, we need not choose to listen.

Dr. Philip J. Rosenthal is the co-founder and president of Fastcase, Inc. (www.fastcase.com) and was the 2016 Republican, Conservative, and Independence Party nominee for Congress in the N.Y. 10th, the district that includes Wall Street and Ground Zero. To read more of his reports — Go Here Now.

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Regardless of intent, taking a knee says unequivocally that if you consider the entirety of America’s history and its future potential, America is just not worthy of enough respect to stand up.
national anthem, protest, kneel, statues, monuments, flag
Thursday, 28 September 2017 03:28 PM
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