The NFL recently created a rule banning players from kneeling during the National Anthem with the option to wait off the field, else incur a fine, in an attempt to address the political firestorm that ensued in the 2017 season.
In response, there is an ever-growing contingent who believes that having a rule that forces people to stand for our flag defeats the actual purpose of standing for our flag. They believe that the act of kneeling is patriotic, and that you are not a true patriot if you fail to heel. This is horse-pucky.
During the 1960’s Vietnam War protests, a new leftist colloquial appeared, often falsely cited today as a Jefferson quote, “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” Today we see this logic used to argue that dissent in the form of kneeling for the Anthem is the highest form of patriotism.
John O’Sullivan in National Review extrapolates this logic to its conclusion: “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism. Treason is the highest form of dissent. Therefore, treason is the highest form of patriotism.”
Now let’s be clear, I am not making the argument that kneeling for the Anthem is treasonous, but rather that the logic behind the idea is that dissent is patriotic is an incorrect and pernicious notion.
As Ethan Epstein writes in the Weekly Standard, “ ‘Protest’ alone is no more patriotic than, say, the general act of fighting in a war is. It matters which side you’re fighting on.” The protesters during the Vietnam War Era who spit on American soldiers, burned American flags, vandalized public property, and rioted were not patriotic; they were not even close. Simply exercising the right to protest and to speak does not make you a patriot and those who supported the troops were not unpatriotic for opposing the insolent and vile protesters.
Recent protests such as the show of bigotry and ignorance in Charlottesville, VA where white nationalists gathered chanting “blood and soil” were not patriotic simply because those in attendance were demonstrating. The content and the means of the protest matters.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in 1968 on the 5-4 decision that overturned 200 years of American law that, “It is poignant but fundamental that the flag protects those who hold it in contempt.” Leftists shouting down speakers and burning American flags on college campuses may be protected, but they sure are not patriots.
Standing for the Anthem does not become meaningless because you are asking people to stand. It is not anti-patriotic to be patriotic. Standing still represents respect for the flag, the nation, and, most importantly, the ideas that make America the greatest experiment in the history of humanity.
“American patriotism is unique,” writes Ben Shapiro in his book Bullies, “American patriotism has a solid basis: we had saved Europe twice, resisted the lure of fascism at home, ended slavery, and moved toward perfecting the union in terms of race and sex. All in all, American had a lot to be proud of.”
You can argue that it is American idealism to recognize the player’s rights to speak out, while also recognizing that speaking out in and of itself is not inherently patriotic. Asking players to stand out of respect and decency (and most likely in an attempt to boost ratings after the dismal showing last season) is within the rights of the NFL, a private organization, but should be coupled with a united effort by the NFL and the players to pursue the greater good off the field.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.