America making a stand—Not


Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light, / What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming? 

During the Rio Olympics medal ceremony, gymnast Gabby Douglas forgot to place her hand over her heart due to the excitement of the moment and received many hateful comments on her lack of Patriotism. Not only that, but San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the national anthem to protest the oppression of people of color. He received a lot of criticism, including disapproval from Donald Trump, who called the refusal to stand “a terrible thing” on the Dori Monson Show on Monday, Aug. 29.

COURTESY OF MAGGIE HARVEY  This cartoon illustrates the ignorant comments Kaepernick received for his protest.

This cartoon illustrates the ignorant comments Kaepernick received for his protest.

Forgetting or refusing to stand or put your hand over your heart does not make one less patriotic. Standing and putting your hand over your heart during the national anthem or the Pledge of Allegiance is a respectful way to show American pride and tradition, however not doing so does not violate any laws or requirements.

Douglas won many gold medals for the U.S. back in the 2012 London Summer Olympics and in this year’s Olympics in Rio. That alone shows the passion she has for her country and the pride she takes in representing it. Douglas’ joy at winning should be more meaningful to the media than her forgetting to place her hand over her heart back in August.

Her race may be the reason for the criticism she has received. According to NY Daily News, “Just a few days after Gabby was roundly blasted for not putting her hand over heart during the national anthem, two burly white Americans did the exact same thing at their own medal ceremony ... no conservative outrage followed. Nobody questioned their patriotism.” It is unfair that such a strong, 20-year-old, three-time Olympic gold medalist has to deal with others questioning her patriotism while two white men who did the same thing and are not enduring any of the heat.

Her forgetting does not detract from her American pride or respect for the country. According to US Magazine, she said, “I never meant any disrespect and apologize if I offended anyone. I’m so overwhelmed at what our team accomplished today and overjoyed that we were able to bring home another gold for our country!” Douglas should not have had to apologize; it was just a simple mistake that she should not be getting so much criticism for. She is not disrespectful or any less patriotic for forgetting.

As for Kaepernick, his refusal to stand was symbolic. As he stated in an interview with NFL Media, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color”. “The Star-Spangled Banner,” written by Francis Scott Key in 1814, contains many references to war and slavery. An article from CNN entitled “Slavery and the national anthem” mentioned that “Some interpretations of these lyrics contend Key was in fact taking pleasure in the deaths of freed black slaves who had decided to fight with the British against the United States.” 

Whether he stood or not should not have to determine how patriotic he is. Trump said in his interview with Monson, “You know, maybe he should find a country that works better for him. Let him try, it won’t happen.” The 49ers responded to the controversy by saying, “In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.”

In the land of the free and the home of the brave, Kaepernick has the right to choose not to stand. While many are giving him a hard time for his decision, the NFL is supporting him and has said, “Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem.” Even U.S. veterans are defending Kaepernick’s choice by posting statements of solidarity on Twitter with #VeteransforKaepernick hashtag. Veteran Charles Clymer (@cmclymer) tweeted, “Don’t use my service or that of any veteran to justify the silencing of black Americans. Not on my watch. #VeteransForKaepernick”.

Standing and putting your hand over your heart during the national anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance is a sign of respect and a part of tradition, but some words and phrases do not apply to every American equally. The first version of the pledge was written in 1892: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” It was later revised in 1954 and the version that we know today reads as, “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Though I did not know of the changes before, I stopped saying, standing and putting my hand over my heart during the Pledge of Allegiance in high school because of the words in the pledge. “One Nation under God” does not apply to me. As a Buddhist, I do not have a God and to be forced to say that this country is under a God that I do not believe in would be ridiculous. It does not make me any less patriotic for not having done the things that are recommended but not required. Thankfully, none of my teachers or peers questioned or criticized my choice.

I love America, my home country, but not all American traditions are applicable to me or other Americans. With the rights to the freedoms of speech, expression and religion (which are American values), people have the choice to say, stand and put a hand over the heart and the choice to not do so. Douglas and Kaepernick are not in the wrong and should not be receiving so much hate. Those who are criticizing them are unpatriotic for attempting to take away Douglas’ and Kaepernick’s rights.