Editor’s Column: Flags, freedom and football

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the

Niki Turner
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 First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America.
We like freedom of speech. As long as we agree with what’s being said.
We like freedom of expression. As long as that expression doesn’t offend our personal biases.
We like freedom of the press. As long as the press promotes the agenda of our chosen political position.
We like freedom of religion. As long as that religion is the particular one we espouse.
We like freedom of assembly. As long as the assembly doesn’t seem threatening to us in any way, including imaginary ones.
We like being able to petition the government. As long as the petition is in line with our complaints.
Somehow I feel like we’ve missed the point of this freedom thing. It has to apply to those with whom we vehemently disagree and disapprove if it’s going to apply to ourselves.
If we’re going to “respect” the First Amendment rights of white supremacists in polo shirts with tiki torches protesting what they perceive as the oppression of white people, we’re also going to have to “respect” ridiculously overpaid pro-football players “taking a knee” during the national anthem to protest what they perceive as the oppression of black people. To do less is to be guilty of practicing situation ethics, at the least.

There’s an official Flag Code we’re supposed to uphold within U.S. jurisdiction. I was familiar with some of it from elementary school: don’t let the flag touch the ground, don’t let it get dirty or worn out, etc., but a few of the Flag Code’s tenets took me by surprise.
“The flag should not be used as ‘wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery,’ or for covering a speaker’s desk, draping a platform, or for any decoration in general (exception for coffins).” So those flag bikinis and T-shirts? Yeah, no.
“The flag should never be used for any advertising purpose. It should not be embroidered, printed or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use.” Apparently it’s a sign of disrespect to put the flag on pretty much anything except, well, the flag.
“The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.” So all those huge flags carried flat onto NFL fields? Looks like a violation to me.
For everyone with an interest in respecting our flag, the Flag Code is an enlightening read. You can view it in its entirety here: bit.ly/2ypOrb9.

In the meantime, while everyone is ranting and raving, what can we do that might actually accomplish some good (because ranting is obviously a fool’s errand)?
Let’s try bringing it back to reality… real reality, not TV reality or internet reality. Offer a kind word. Pay it forward. Volunteer. Pick up litter. Bless those who curse you and forgive those who do you wrong. Listen when someone else has a different opinion from your own. You might learn something.
We can’t fix the NFL. We can’t fix the government. But we can have a significant positive impact on the lives of the people we encounter every day, just by being civil.