By Mike Marshall
Seeley Lake, Mont. 



September 28, 2017

The politicians have been milking the patriotism cow for some time, at the same time they want to ignore veterans’ needs. As soon as some citizen on the street or representative in Congress or the white house starts espousing patriotism, a big red flag goes up in my mind. “Patriotism” is the first refuge of carpetbaggers, and it trips my gag reflex.

True patriots are not shouting their esprit from the rooftops or in front of microphones. True patriots are quietly doing patriotic things and they ask for no recognition for doing what seems natural and necessary.

Our alleged leaders get us into wars that are unnecessary and often detrimental to our own best interests. Our soldiers, sailors and airmen do their bidding, right or wrong. They do so without asking for anything from us except support. And we can support the soldiers without necessarily condoning the leaders who put them in harm’s way, and often forget about them when they come home, unless it’s election time. Then these same self-gratifying idiots bring out the flags and thump their chests.

Let’s remember the flag is merely a cloth with a design on it that represents some very great and lofty goals, including the right to express our opinions, our dreams and our dissent. We cannot lessen the worthiness of those goals by burning a red, white and blue piece of fabric or kneeling during the playing of our national anthem. But we can damage those aspirations and the symbolism of our flag and anthem by denying our fellow humans the right to express them.

Let’s focus instead on upholding those things we believe in. Let’s buy a meal for a homeless person. Let’s make sure our neighbor does not have to choose between eating and buying needed medicine or health care. Let’s ensure children don’t have to go hungry. Let’s endeavor to provide an affordable education to all of our children because that secures their future and the future of this country.

The thing I have the least time to consider is whether or not some human is burning a flag or taking a knee somewhere. And standing for the anthem doesn’t make you a patriot any more than wearing a cowboy hat makes you a cowboy.

Each verse of The Star-Spangled Banner ends with “O’er the land of the free.” Both the flag and the anthem symbolize the freedoms our forefathers gave their lives for. Why? Because they valued those principles (freedom of speech, etc.) so highly.

Freedom of expression is freedom of speech. That was decided hundreds of years ago. I would defend anyone’s right to freely express themselves. That means they can stand, kneel, squat, sit, lay down or stand on their heads. But I will never defend any person’s right to suppress the very rights that our flag and anthem symbolize.

I reject the divisiveness of Trump and every other small mind that does not understand or appreciate how freedom of speech actually works and is actually represented by our flag and anthem.

The ultimate disrespect to our country, to our flag, to our national anthem and to our founding fathers is to deny the absolute freedom of speech embodied in our Constitution.


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