Donald Trump, the NFL, the U.S. flag and protests

Play­ers have right to protest but dis­re­spect­ing the flag is wrong

The Community Connection - - LOCAL NEWS - Arthur Gar­ri­son From Arthur’s Pol­icy Desk

So once again Pres­i­dent Trump has started a firestorm to dis­tract at­ten­tion to the fail­ure of his party, with com­plete con­trol of the gov­ern­ment, to pass a health care bill or any­thing else. Rather than talk­ing about the ten­sion re­gard­ing North Korea, Amer­ica has been in a de­bate over NFL play­ers protest­ing by tak­ing a knee when the na­tional an­them is played un­der the flag of the United States.

As the dis­trac­tion has oc­curred and there is no way around it, let’s con­sider the bi­ases that have come to light over the NFL play­ers’ protest. Those on the so­cial con­ser­va­tive right are in­censed these over-priv­i­leged, ma­jor­ity black ath­letes are so self­ab­sorbed they can re­ceive mil­lions of dol­lars to play a game and yet can’t let their left-wing pol­i­tics go for just two min­utes and stand un­der the flag that gave them the op­por­tu­nity to play a game for mil­lions of dol­lars. The po­lit­i­cal left, with self-right­eous in­dig­na­tion, is in full sup­port of these men, who they say are in the same breath and tra­di­tion of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Thomas Jef­fer­son, for stand­ing up for the high con­sti­tu­tional prin­ci­ple of free speech and against the sins of Amer­i­can racism that is per­va­sive in Amer­i­can cul­ture. The play­ers took a stand, they say, in the face of hu­mil­i­a­tion and at­tacks from the pres­i­dent of the United States.

OK. Enough of the hy­per­bole. The prob­lem with the protest is that it protests un­der the wrong sym­bol.

I would call upon a lit­tle his­tory for help. When the south suc­ceeded from the Union be­cause it op­posed the elec­tion of Abra­ham Lin­coln, it was not un­der the U.S. flag that they at­tacked Fort Sumter in Charleston, S.C. But it was the un­der the U.S. flag that more than 300,000 north­ern troops fought to put self-serv­ing states’ rights slave own­ers un­der heel and to es­tab­lish once and for all that the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion was the supreme law of the land.

It was not un­der the flag that the Klan ran wild and raped, killed, beat and im­pris­oned African Amer­i­cans un­der the Black Codes and then Jim Crow. That oc­curred un­der state flags. It was un­der the U.S. flag and the Con­sti­tu­tion it sup­ported that the Supreme Court aban­doned Plessy v. Fer­gu­son for Brown v. Board of Ed­u­ca­tion.

When the great Tuskegee Air­men and other African Amer­i­cans fought and died in World War II only to come home and not be able to get a cup of cof­fee at a lo­cal res­tau­rant, it was un­der what the Amer­i­can Flag stood for that Dr. King and oth­ers faced down Strom Thur­mond, Barry Gold­wa­ter and Ge­orge Wal­lace, the fa­thers of the mod­ern Repub­li­can Party. Dr. King and many oth­ers faced down those fa­thers who de­fended states’ rights and ar­gued that fed­eral an­ti­lynch­ing laws and laws against seg­re­ga­tion were noth­ing less than acts of fed­eral gov­ern­ment tyranny. They faced them down un­der what the U.S. flag stands for, even when the na­tion had not lived up to those ideals.

When a po­lice of­fi­cer kills an African Amer­i­can man in the street and leaves him there for hours like his death and body have no value, it’s the U.S. flag and the laws it rep­re­sents that de­mand an ac­count­ing and a process for that ac­count­ing. That ac­count­ing did not oc­cur when the states’ rights Democrats, now Repub­li­cans, owned Amer­i­can pol­i­tics from 1876 through the 1950s.

I don’t dis­agree with the play­ers’ right to protest po­lice bru­tal­ity or so­cial in­equities. But the U.S. flag is the wrong sym­bol to protest. We should stand up for the U.S. flag be­cause un­der it Amer­ica has been made bet­ter. Un­der it, and what it stands for, slav­ery, Black Codes, Jim Crow, dis­crim­i­na­tion, forced ster­il­iza­tion of un­de­sir­ables in Amer­ica and var­i­ous other types of so­cial in­jus­tices all have been brought to heel.

No as­ser­tion is made that Amer­ica has come to meet the full val­ues and ideals of the U.S. flag and na­tional an­them. But the point is un­der these two great sym­bols Amer­ica has come a long way.

The Klan, the south in re­bel­lion, lynch mobs in the south, racial dis­crim­i­na­tion all oc­curred un­der the con­fed­er­ate flag, the swastika and state flags of the south. Those flags made no pre­tense that jus­tice and equal­ity is the point of gov­ern­ment. The U.S. flag does. In hon­est protest, the right sym­bol should be sup­ported and the right sym­bol op­posed.

It is this sub­tly that Trump missed en­tirely dur­ing the protests against the Nazis in Char­lottesville.

If African Amer­i­cans could fight and die un­der the Amer­i­can flag when its prin­ci­ples were not obeyed at home be­tween 1865 and 1965, the flag, the Na­tional An­them and what they rep­re­sent should be hon­ored now as a ban­ner to deal with the in­jus­tices of our time now. Arthur Gar­ri­son is an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of crim­i­nal jus­tice at Kutz­town Univer­sity. This opin­ion is the work of Dr. Gar­ri­son and does not re­flect the opin­ions of Kutz­town Univer­sity or its fac­ulty, staff, stu­dents or alumni.

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