“So this is how liberty dies . . . with thunderous applause.” – Padme Amidala, Revenge of the Sith
I have thought often about this movie quote since President Trump earned the Republican nomination and subsequently took office. We now have a leader who desires to operate like a dictator and a good percentage of our population is cheering on every move he makes. It's disheartening and I hope it's a shift that will correct course with our next election.
The latest chilling episode is the president’s decision to cancel the celebration of the Eagles’ Super Bowl victory. His ego was bruised because multiple players indicated they would not be in attendance. OK. The president is not under any obligation to host professional football players in the White House. That's not my biggest concern.
Instead of the decision itself, the most troublesome part is the words he used in letting the world know the event was canceled. He wrote, “They disagree with their President because he insists that they proudly stand for the National Anthem . . .” Trump then went on to share that he instead would be throwing a big patriotic party at which everyone would sing the National Anthem and respect our flag. Maybe he can ask for a rush job to get a few 20-foot tall banners made of himself for the affair.
First, not surprisingly, Trump made the protests about him, even if he did so in an odd third-person way. He sees all of these protests as something that is being done TO him. But here's the thing . . . Trump LOVES that some NFL players aren't standing for the anthem. If people start to forget about it, he is sure to yell about it at some campaign rally and get his base all worked up about it again. Because he likes to stand in front of the applause and the cheering. The kneeling for the anthem issue had quietly resolved through conversation and community until Trump brought it up during a speech in Alabama. Then it exploded. And the anthem has been his go-to for fawning approval since then. It's sick.
Second, I do not want any president “insisting” that I stand for the National Anthem. That is not the job of the leader of the executive branch. In a free country, our government does not dictate forced patriotism. I don't want Big Brother watching me to make sure I salute correctly. I don't understand people who support the president in this situation but also shout that government is tyranny and small government is best. The two don't make sense together.
To that point, I made the mistake of listening to a radio talk show this morning as the cancellation of the Eagles ceremony was discussed. One caller said, “I agree with the president. He should not reward bad behavior. Maybe if the players learn to show more respect and act better, they can come back next year.” So, Trump is our daddy now? Gross. And we, as citizens of this country, are under no obligation to fall in lockstep with the president's wishes and ideology in order to earn a moment in his presence.
Multiple other callers and commenters on the radio station's Facebook page contributed insights such as calling the NFL players "parasites" who should be kicked out of the country and thanking Trump for honoring our veterans and our police and making our country great again. I made the mistake of typing a comment (I know, I know . . . stay out of the cesspool) I noted it isn't the president's job to mandate patriotism. I got called an "asshat." So, that was productive.
Many Trump supporters say that they love our country and its freedoms. They state an adherence to the Constitution. But in practice, they show a disregard for our Bill of Rights and for the notion of liberty and limited government when they defend Trump's dictatorial leanings. His ignorance or dismissal of our basic rights is excused by his supporters because his ideology is (sadly) acceptable.
I always stand for the anthem, but not because a leader wants me to do so. I love this country and I use that time to reflect on the pride I have in our founding ideals as well as the struggles we still have to attain them. I think about how fortunate I am to have been born at a hospital in Washington, D.C. instead of a place in which I wasn't allowed to vote or decide who I would marry or show my face in public. Why me and not some other woman born somewhere else?
But I also do not begrudge someone who chooses not to stand. Their history may be different than mine. They may be questioning our country or reflecting on loss or maybe they just don't care enough to stand. I may not agree with some of those who do not stand or maybe I just don't understand them. In America, though, none of those reasons means a person should be expelled from the country. It just means we live in a great nation in which dissent and patriotism and criticism and flag waving with zeal all are allowed and encouraged. And that's awesome. I wouldn't want it any other way.
One of my dearest friends from college is a veteran of the Iraq War. I think often of a story he told me about his time overseas. He was in Iraq and sitting with a fellow soldier watching protests against the war that were taking place in San Francisco. My friend mentioned to his cohort that his sister was participating in those protests. He was asked, "Doesn't it bother you that your sister is out in the streets protesting against something you are doing?" My friend replied, "Not at all. That's exactly why I'm here. So she always has the right to do just that." I love that. (And this friend of mine often reads my blog posts . . . so, hello!)
I am a big fan of the United States of America. If our country had a jersey, I would wear it every day and ask Uncle Sam to sign it. (Unless the jersey was a big American flag, because I think it's disrespectful to wear the flag . . . but that's just me.) I read the Constitution regularly. I really do. The Iwo Jima Marine Memorial at night in D.C.? I get chills every time I visit it and stare at that flag being planted by brave men. I love America the Beautiful, especially as sung by Ray Charles. But I will not have any president, whether I voted for him (or someday her) or not, telling me what I need to do to prove myself worthy as an American. Never. And neither should you. (I mean, unless you want the president to tell you what to do. Then go for it, because I'm not here to force you to do anything, either.)