The importance of unity and First Amendment rights

By Choice Edwards
I am a patriot of this country. I was a federal government employee for over three decades.
In fact, I was the 1985-86 president of the Federal Executive Association of Indianapolis, representing 24,000 civilian and military employees.
I understand reciting the national anthem and the pledge at military, civic and government gatherings. We always recited the Pledge of Allegiance and had a moment of silent introspection at our monthly meetings.
But why at the start of athletic contests?
It is unnecessary — discontinue it.
Look around when the anthem is being played and people are to be at attention. Instead, people are talking, chewing gum, drinking and some start to applaud before the song ends. People at home ignore it.
Some suggest professional football players should kneel at the Vietnam Wall. They ignore that hundreds of thousands of people sacrificed for and against a futile no-win adventure. This was a very unpopular and divisive war. The same can be said of the Korean War — a failed attempt to prevent an alternative form of government. We will eventually leave Afghanistan also with nothing to show but shattered lives and a tremendous loss of treasury. Better to kneel at Wounded Knee or Appomattox. Some National Football League patriots stand, I suspect for the good we Americans do, but that must also include the atrocities we do. Some NFL patriots take a knee due to the yet-to-be-fulfilled promise of liberty and justice for all. They are not disrespecting the flag, they are exercising their First Amendment right to peacefully protest on behalf of those who do not have an audience for peaceful protest. They are protesting racial and class injustice in these divided states. They are demanding equal protection under law and the Constitution.
It would be hypocritical to agree with our governmental leaders when they are morally wrong. It is not about disrespecting the flag, it is about respecting themselves and their right to protest. No one has the right to deny their First Amendment rights.
We live in a country where the government can’t dictate or force us what to say, think, pray or believe. Most of us don’t want to give that up. We cherish it.
The pursuit of happiness and equal treatment is far more valuable than reverence to a piece of cloth probably made in China. The worship of an anthem while discriminating against fellow citizens is absolutely anti-American.
“People have died for our freedoms!” Freedoms for whom? Historically: only white men. Black servicemen fought and died and still, our government and citizens did not treat them equally. Six decades after civil rights and the Voting Rights Law, citizens’ voting rights are routinely suppressed. Their grievances are real, factual, disheartening and dispiriting. I wish they’d stand, but I sure understand.
We all respect and honor those who have given their all for this country including, among a host of others, our military, Crispus Attucks, Thurgood Marshall, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Freedom Riders.
Supremacists assert a “race” of people as superior, yet they fear that “just one drop” of “inferior blood” is more powerful than all the other blood flowing in human veins. They should know, irrespective of skin color, we are all descendants from Africa. They should check their DNA. The slaveholder did not hesitate to spread his seed with the slave.
Some “good ol’ boys” disrespect America’s flag by saluting the Confederate flag and few condemn that as unpatriotic.
On the gridiron, players take a knee to show respect and concern for injured players of the opposite team — that is unity. Players would rather hasten the advent of equal justice for all by protesting the injustice of today. Patriotic citizens should stand with minority Americans — that is unity.