Letter to the Editor: Taking a knee? Democrats must reclaim patriotism

Some members of the San Francisco 49ers kneel during the National Anthem before a game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field on October 15, 2017 in Landover, MD. Photo by Keith Allison
Some members of the San Francisco 49ers kneel during the National Anthem before a game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field on October 15, 2017 in Landover, MD. Photo by Keith Allison
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Editor’s note: The opinions below are the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect those of this publication.

To the Editor:

On Aug. 1, 1963, President John F Kennedy stood before the graduating class at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland and stated: “I can imagine a no more rewarding career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: ‘I served in the United States Navy.’

President Kennedy addresses U.S. Naval Academy, Aug. 1, 1963.
President Kennedy addresses U.S. Naval Academy, Aug. 1, 1963.

President Kennedy added  “…if I were a young man in 1963 I can imagine no place to be better than right here at this Academy, or at West Point, or in the Air Force, or in some other place beginning a career of service to the United States.”

With this thought in mind, I believe everyone can agree and realize that freedom is not free. I think we can also agree that as a nation, we are always striving to become a more perfect union.

Yet, for over a year, I have watched the NFL fumble (pun intended) through the meandering issue of players protesting the flag and/or anthem and I wonder why it is that only the Republican Party seems to address the issue head on, and ultimately understand, that we must stand together as a nation, for this one moment, as requested.

After all, we are all in this together and we all must continue to work towards a more perfect union…together.

The Democrats have been woefully silent, in my opinion, and yet I cannot understand why. We have many in our party who have served with great distinction, be it Harry Truman in World War I, John F Kennedy in World War II, Jim Webb and Chuck Robb during Vietnam, up through and including present day conflicts.

As no prominent Democrats, that I have seen, have come forward to address the issue and ask all players to stand in solidarity for our armed forces and nation, then this relatively obscure Democrat and author will have to suffice for the moment.

I am all for professional players of any sport using their platform for any and all charities, causes and issues they feel strongly about.

But, to paraphrase the great Lakota Holy Man Black Elk, I have learned this lesson from the high hill of my old age that there is truly a time and place for everything, and I can see no justifiable reason why it would be the one moment in the stadium when the flag is raised and we pay respect to everything we have endured together as a nation and all those who make it possible.

Republicans, Democrats and every other political stripe should be able to acknowledge this without fear of reprisal.

Will Durant famously stated, “No great nation was ever conquered from without until it had destroyed itself from within.”

If as a nation, we cannot come together and at least agree on this one simple point, then perhaps there is a very real truth to Durant’s prophecy.

Wayne B. Marek
Morris Plains

Wayne B. Marek served on the Morris Plains Board of Education from 2009-2013 and ran for state Assembly as a Democrat in the 26th District in  2015.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. From the beginning, the motives of the NFL player protests have been about highlighting racial injustice. The protests aren’t aimed at the military, veterans, the flag or any other patriotic symbols. The protests seek the freedoms fought for by military members to be fully respected and realized in the U.S.

    Democrats have not come forward to address the issue and ask all players to stand in solidarity for our armed forces and nation simply because it is not a protest against them. Sorry, but Democrats don’t disagree with protesting against oppression of black people and people of color.

    History proves that those who took peaceful and creative approaches to political activism like this were often able to achieve their goal. They inspire us and we admire them and their unwavering peacefulness in the face of adversity.

    As mentioned in a previous comment, the most famous example of peaceful activism in U.S history is the March on Washington in 1963. Americans marched to promote racial equality and justice led by Martin Luther King Jr. The day brought hope and a renewed strength and determination to the civil rights movement that was taking place in the 60s. King’s dream taught a suffering nation that they could dream.

  2. As we discuss the kneeling issue, I think it’s important to recall that the very same complaints and criticisms were lodged against Dr. King in the same year that President Kennedy made this speech – and how many of those who criticized him then would defend that criticism today?

    Like Colin Kaepernick and the other NFL players who choose to kneel, Dr. King, too, was accused of tearing the country apart; he was accused of being divisive at the time when unity was desperately needed. In fact, in 1963, 60% of Americans had an unfavorable view of the planned March on Washington, where Dr. King gave his famous “I Have a Dream Speech.” Today, of course, we recognize the justice of his movement and the instrumental role he played in changing white Americans’ views on race. I hope that the same story will unfold for Mr. Kaepernick and his allies in the NFL.

    In an era when an African-American has to worry that he or she may not survive a routine traffic stop, I think we have to grant that it’s fair for African-Americans to feel that the flag doesn’t necessarily only mean “freedom” or “justice” – it may mean those things, but it may also mean other more complicated things too, things like “injustice” and “prejudice” and “implicit bias.” In that way, asking the NFL players to stand for the flag is asking them to ignore that oppression. Is that a reasonable request, when people’s lives are literally on the line?

    For white Americans today, it’s worth reacquainting ourselves with this passage from Dr. King’s famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” also written in 1963:

    “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action.'”

    As a military spouse myself, I applaud Mr. Kaepernick and the other players who kneel. At great risk to themselves both personally and professionally, they are standing for justice at a time when it is as difficult and as necessary to fight for it as it was in 1963.

  3. I’m an obscure Democrat too, as well as a proud American, and I have not seen anything wrong with kneeling for the anthem. I actually applaud the players as it took a lot of courage to go against the grain and stand up for what they believe in by taking that knee (how ironic, right?). The thing is, is that this gesture is NOT protesting the flag or anthem .. It is a protest against injustices that many have endured in our nation. We can say we have come through a lot together but for many there have been and continue to be times and situations based on the color of their skin or their religion that have not been so great. I actually see the kneeling as a quite reverent thing to do. I’ve also noticed that a great many veterans have come out and spoken in support of what the kneeling stands for … that this is what they fought for, i.e., the freedom of expression in this great country of ours. I have to also say that for me, the kneeling could be support for ALL of the downtrodden. But that’s just me …

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