by Ashley Calkins
There are stereotypical rules to being a “true” American, if you will. Number one; you have to own a confederate flag. Number two; you have to have a USA blanket to sit on, USA bandana to wear, a beer in hand and a TV to scream at when the players kneel in apparent disrespect of our flag. It’s a must-have list of things that make you seem “patriotic” these days. Oh, and let’s not forget the “don’t tread on me” sticker on the back of the Chevy pick-up truck and the gun in hand.
If it seems like I’m pointing out a specific group of people, you can be sure that I am. Because being an American isn’t about whether or not you kneel during the anthem. It’s not about being conservative or liberal. It’s about having the human decency to realize that the things mentioned above, which many consider to be “patriotic,” are hypocritical.
The Confederate flag, for one, is the symbol of an era in which prejudice against skin color and slavery was accepted. The Confederate flag is waved proudly by extremist neo-Nazi groups next to the Nazi flag. The confederate flag is the most un-American flag in our history. The Confederate flag is the flag of the people who chose to break away from America, break away from freedom, and start a war that spilled American blood on American soil. The Confederate flag is a symbol of a “country” that held on to racism, sexism, and white privilege. So when you fly that flag, know that I will never see it as American. I will see it as it is; a symbol of what America should never be.
As for kneeling during the national anthem, the players are not kneeling in disrespect of our country or our flag. They kneel in respect of those who died for the flag, and those who were killed under that flag in our very own country. They kneel because at a soldier’s funeral, the flag is presented by a kneeling soldier to the fallen one’s parents. They kneel in respect, and they kneel for lost lives that need to be remembered. It is far more disrespectful to our flag to sit on it, seeing as many have American flag blankets. As a military child, may I also point out that the purpose of the military is to preserve freedom of speech and liberty in our country? If that is true, what are you doing berating someone for their freedom of speech? Who does it hurt? No one, but it has a message. Let them share it.
To be an American is to have a moral compass aligned with the Constitution. In this respect, to be an American, you have to believe in equality, regardless of sex, gender, sexuality, religion, race, etc. According to the 14th amendment, that is the true patriot. To be an American, you have to believe in freedom. So you would have to agree that people should be free to speak their minds about issues in their country. To be an American, you have to believe in justice. So you would have to agree that our justice system unfairly favors those of lighter skin.
I’m not saying that in order to be an American you have to align yourself with one political party. What I am saying, however, is that in order to be a “true” American patriot, you have to believe in the values this country was founded on. It is possible to believe in conservative or liberal ideologies and hold true to patriotism, as long as you show respect to our founding documents. With that comes the Flag Code, which clearly advises against wearing American flag clothing, among other things, as well. With that comes the belief in the Constitution, which purposefully gave the federal government the rights it has due to confederacies having a tendency to fail. With that comes the 14th amendment, and all the other amendments dedicated to the rights of the people. With that comes the Supreme Court cases that came to do amazing things in progress of civil rights. To me, it seems that so many pass by on what this country truly is in comparison to what it should be.
I am an American. A believer in the people. A believer in equality, in freedom and in justice. To be an American is not just to be born here. It’s not even about where you are from. It’s about loving this country for what it should be and believing in what it can be. I am an American patriot, and I hope you are, too.