The NFL, The Anthem andThe Flag – Silly Ignorance

This Star Spangled Banner Flag kneeling kerfuffle has virtually everyone talking, with many voicing stark disapproval for those NFL athletes who choose to kneel during the playing of our national anthem.

What is surprising is how many different reasons are given for the anger felt for this disrespectful act. It seems each starts with “I feel…” or “What it means to me…”, and while these reasons are patriotic, there doesn’t seem to be one specific reason for the anger.

Have no doubt, this is a flag thing. Our national anthem is about the flag. Francis Scott Key wrote this beautiful song while watching the bombardment of Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore. Being abroad a British ship HMS Tonnant on a prisoner exchange mission approved by President Madison, Key was kept captive during the night battle and had a front-row seat during the fierce battle.

Come dawn, the fort ran up their large U.S. flag and as the sun rose Francis Scott Key was able for the first time to discover the Americans had held the fort and won the battle. That day, in patriotic fervor, Mr. Key wrote the poem on a back of a letter he had in his pocket.

From time immortal, a country’s flag has been a symbol for land ownership. It has been the sign, the identifier of who owned and controlled that particular piece of land. Really nothing more, nothing less. This, because all war is essentially about land. Storm the beach, capture this hill, that road, take this town, conquer this country. Once taken, run up the flag and let all the citizens know a new power is in control.

This is why the flag is immediately raised when a foreign embassy, or military base is opened. It tells the world who has control of that land, and sends both a warning and welcome. It is also why the opponents flag is taken down immediately upon land capture.

The silliness of this kneeling is so rich in irony, you’d have thought someone would have realized it by now. After kneeling in front of the flag which signifies the fact we own the land in this country, (even the land they are going to play on), after kneeling during the anthem which is all about the defense of said land, the players go out on the field to play a game which boils down to a sophisticated game of “Capture the Flag”.

Football is essentially about capturing and controlling land. Cross the 50-yard line, and you are in the opponent’s side of the field. Go further, and you are deep into their territory. Obviously, the prize is to force your will upon the defense and grab their most precious piece of land. That 10-yard piece of land decorated with their logo (their flag).

Which is also why you see such elaborate celebrations when they are able to defend their land, and even greater displays if they’ve captured their opponent’s land to the end zone. And the winner is the team which has captured the end-zone the most times.

The ignorant part of this kneeling protest movement comes down to the difference between national and local issues. This started and for many still is about protesting police killing black Americans or at the least treating them brutally.

But this is a local thing. It’s very hard for someone in Boise to get into much of a concerned rage over what happens in St. Charles MO, much less maintain that rage to productivity. It just is. Boise, Silver Springs, Sacramento, they all have their local problems, every city and town does. The playing of the national anthem with the flag is an event. It’s a national event. Conflating a local issue with a national event rarely, if ever is successful.

Besides that, it just looks lazy. I can picture Colin Kaepernick standing up afterwards, dusting the off of his uniform, and thinking, “OK, now it’s Miller time.”  A person can’t be blamed for assuming if he or others were really serious, they would be protesting in front of the local City Hall, or organizing a rally, or voter drive, anything to stir up local outrage and effect change. Kneeling is easy, gets attention and cost them nothing but a second’s worth of time.

As an aside, the easy way to fix this is to do what colleges do. Don’t broadcast the national anthem. You can bet your bottom dollar, without national TV, this kneeling thing goes away in a New York second.

If you’ve noticed these kneelers, ask yourself how many have grown up understanding the ethic of owning land? How many have experienced the difficulty of holding land, caring for that land, and depending on that land. The sad fact is many have come into adulthood without that knowledge, then they receive huge bonuses, and promptly purchase a beautiful home. Maybe even one for their mom.

Most didn’t go through the process of a small starter home. A home that required a bit of fixing up. Whether it’s the shower leak, the toiler which won’t flush, the fence needed a new post of two, it could be any number of things that need attention. It is in this process of claiming your home by stint of hard work, not to mention budgeting to make ends meet and make the mortgage payment, that carves this love of land into the human heart. Land that comes easy is never as loved as land fought for, tamed and defended.

In all probability, many of these kneelers have never mowed the lawn, trimmed the trees, or performed any of the myriad of “honey-dos” that crop up on an daily or weekly basis. They’ve got their MacMansions because of their talent, they’ve got people who take care of their place, and even pay the bills. Because of that, it’s just another place. Certainly, not their cherished land.

The millennial’s celebrating with them are no different. Whether they are still squatting in their parents basement, living in a college dorm on their parents dime, or renting with a dozen other millennials, they’ve never struggled for anything, much less land or a home.

If you can’t appreciate land at a local level, how can you cherish land at a national level?

Our flag and our national anthem stand for the ownership of this land we call America. Standing in honor of that flag during the anthem, or pledging allegiance to that flag is in essence telling the your countrymen and the world this one defiant statement “This is my land, I will give my life defending it, as will my countrymen. Come and take our land over our dead bodies.”

This silly ignorance makes you wonder if these fearsome defenders of their end zone would so fiercely defend their home country. Their actions before the game certainly inform us differently.

About the author

Wm. P. Fitzhenry

5th generation Texan, 2nd generation reformed Presbyterian, a twin and a serial entrepreneur.

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