Nationalism is a type of religion. How do I know? Because growing up, during my Wednesday night kids class at church (and, I think at my Christian school), we would pledge to the American flag, the Christian flag, and, I think, the Bible. This tells me that the adults in charge put each of these items on the same level of importance.
Fast-forward to today, and what do we see? (Many) Christian and/or Conservative Americans becoming upset when people of other religions come into their country and ask for equal and respectful treatment. These same (Christian and/or Conservative) people are choosing political positions and supporting candidates on the sole basis that they have claimed to share the same faith and ideologies, despite many examples indicating the opposite. Conservative Americans are upset when anyone questions something ingrained in America’s way of life.
I paid attention in school. I know that the Constitution of the United States of America protects certain rights: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
The right to freedom of religion means all religions are welcome and should experience no infringement of rights for when, where, and how they worship. The right to free speech/expression means people can speak out about issues they face without fear of repercussions from the “powers that be” who may disagree. The “right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievance” means people can protest when there is oppression and other unethical practices occurring that harm any part of the population. However, with each day that passes, the more people (especially the president) forget that these rights are protected. We do not live in a (recognized) dictatorship, therefore, anyone who has an issue can act in such a way, as protected by law, to bring attention to it.
Regarding the recent issue of football players not responding as expected to the national anthem and pledge of allegiance by taking a knee, raising a fist, or simply not putting one’s hand over one’s heart as a peaceful protest to communicate to those watching that there are major equality and racial issues in the United States, and that the country does not protect all of its people equally, is a justified and constitutionally protected action. To condemn or attack those who exercise their constitutional rights with the ferocity that many are showing is to say these individuals’ perspectives, opinions, and beliefs are invalid simply because others disagree.
This brings me to the issue of Donald Trump’s speech yesterday, during which he said, regarding NFL players who “disrespect” the flag, that team owners should respond with, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired!” One, that is an unethical response from the President of the United States of America, who has sworn to uphold the Constitution—therefore, he has broken his oath. Furthermore, what he is suggesting is illegal. You cannot constitutionally fire somebody because they choose, as an independent human being, to not say or do something voluntary regarding their place of citizenship.
Therefore, to everyone who is up in arms if they feel their country is disrespected, consider the many ways the country (from the top down) is disrespecting millions of its residents and citizens. It is profiting from the fear, pain, and death of minority people. You may not, personally, feel the oppression, inequality, and injustice, but if you step outside of your bubble of comfort, you will see things that you can’t unsee. Once that happens, you have a decision to make: knowingly stand by while people are abused and oppressed by the system you blindly support, or knowingly step up to advocate for change to make this place truly a safe country for all who are born here, immigrate here, or visit here.
P.S. Join thousands (maybe millions) and boycott the NFL.