Professional athletes are making a statement during the national anthem again. I say again because this isn’t the first time this has happened. I remember well the black fists on the podium at the 1968 Olympics and the outrage people expressed as a result.
Clearly, Americans have diverse feelings about our national anthem. I will admit that it chokes me up when I sing it, although I’m not exactly sure why. I suppose it represents my country weathering hard times and surviving them…it's a source of pride for me. (I've only known the first verse most of my life, and that's what I focus on.)
Although it’s just a song and the flag is just a piece of cloth, they represent more than that. For some people, they are synonymous with our country, so to disrespect the anthem or the flag is to disrespect our country. If you lost a family member who fought for our country in the military, your connection to the flag probably runs deep. The flag may be a person you love who was taken from you in an act of bravery defending something they believe in. Any sign of disrespect for that is unfathomable.
I suppose it makes sense that when people are really angry with our country, they will attack our symbols. It’s a powerful way to make a statement and a lot better than blowing up government buildings. No one is physically harmed in the process. And yet it’s hard to say that no one is hurt.
I’ve been a bit puzzled by the fact that few people are pointing out the obvious about all the NFL players who got down on one knee during the national anthem this week. Those who are protesting are overwhelmingly African American. As a white person, I can’t pretend I haven’t noticed.
I have no clue what it’s like to be black in our country; that’s not my experience. But I want to do my best to understand. I would like to hear from those who are angry enough with our country that they can’t bring themselves to stand for our national anthem. I would like to understand why they feel this is necessary. Instead of accusing them of being traitors, I would like to understand their perspective.
That may sound un-American to some folks, but seeking healing in a nation that is clearly divided is born out of love for my country. And clearly, as a follower of Jesus, that’s where I’m called to go.
We are so quick to accuse “them” and defend “us.” We do this without taking the time to listen to one another. It's not productive and will never move us forward. I hate watching our country go through this latest controversy, yet again casting judgment with no concern for understanding.
Instead of accusing or dismissing those who don’t share our experience or perspective, why don’t we try listening?