I don’t get it.

I mean, on one hand, I do understand.

But then on the other hand I don’t get it.

I get that people are upset about the flag. They feel that a respectful knee rather than standing is actually a show of disrespect.

I can understand that, in some ways. I have the utmost respect for the military and the sacrifice so many have made to keep our country, the country this flag represents, safe. I have the utmost respect for the people who, every day, are working to keep our country safe.

And I realize that we are by no means a perfect country. Actually we’ve done a lot of things to a lot of people that has tarnished that reputation. That hurts and the more I see and understand how that worked and works, the more it pains me.

But it is a protest, people. Protests are supposed to be a bit disrespectful. Jesus was protesting the money changers in the temple – how did He do it? By turning over their tables and trashing their place. The American Revolutionaries protested British tax policies by dumping tea in the Boston Harbor. Rosa Parks protested Jim Crow by refusing to sit in the back of the bus. Jackie Robinson protested the Major League Baseball “whites only” policy by going out and standing up to the racist players, managers and owners.

Disrespectful? All of them are, to some degree or another.

That is, to some extent, what makes them a protest against an injustice.

But why? Help me understand.

I was recently in a local public high school and it appeared to be homecoming week. There were a lot of events happening and the day I was there must have been dress in red white and blue day or something of the sort.

I saw teenage boys wearing athletic shorts that came down to the knees with the flag on the shorts. Parts of the flag were in very potentially awkward positions on said teenage boys posteriors.

I saw teenage girls wearing yoga pants that were made out of the flag. Well, let’s just say that what might have appropriate attire for the yoga class or a workout at the gym was way too tight for at school. That flag stretched and pulled and bent in rather interesting ways in interesting places.

Now, help me understand. This was an almost all white school, but how can wearing those type of clothes – shorts and yoga pants – with the flag on them be respectful of the flag and respectful of the country and yet kneeling quietly during the national anthem isn’t?

Or were the teenagers at the local high school protesting something too?

If they were, I missed it.


4 thoughts on “I don’t get it.

  1. Jb

    You know I appreciate your writings…and agree with you often (‘cept maybe on the underworked/summers totes off doing nothing comments )…. and I have no thoughts yet on the high schoolers not ‘wearing’ the flag appropriately….. but with this whole NFL thing…. I strongly feel that it’s the wrong time and place to disrespect our flag/anthem/country –whatever!!!–by pro athletes making thousands, even millions of dollars looked to by oodles of people (spesh kids) to be some sort of role models??? WRONG venue, time and place…. do it on your time, not ‘on the job’.

    1. tomvanderwell Post author

      Jayne, Are you saying that if you are rich and a role model you aren’t allowed to stand up for what you believe? Apply that to the TV and movie awards shows – if someone who is rich and a role model makes a speech about a cause that is important to them, they shouldn’t do it because they are a role model? What about being a role model and standing up for what you believe? Do you think that Martin Luther King Jr. would say, “Now is not the time, let’s do it……”

      If you ask me, I’d say that a slightly overweight teenage girl wearing skin tight yoga pants with the flag stretched over those skin tight yoga pants is more disrespectful than a millionaire black man kneeling to bring attention to things that have happened to men and women of his skin color and by kneeling, he knows he is putting his career at risk.

      Explain to me, if you would, when a football player should protest and how they should do it and where they should do it – keeping in mind the movie stars who have protested injustices in the past – even though those injustices were not about people of their skin color (I’m thinking, in particular of George Clooney protesting about conditions in certain places in Africa).

      Thanks for stopping by and for sharing in the discussion.


  2. Steve


    Thoughts from me.

    Was considering your ideas today and have read and seen many opinions on this both pro and con from pastors, military people, and ordinary people.

    My take away is that the flag and the anthem are symbols that represent something to people. Perhaps different things to different people. Ultimately it represents the country we live in with all its history, good and bad. Standing (not kneeling, respectfully or otherwise) at attention hand over heart while the anthem plays is the way Americans traditionally honor those who fight, fought, or have fallen to protect the liberties and freedoms Americans enjoy. It’s not about the flag or anthem persay but more about what it represents. I don’t think many people are trying to say these people, or anyone, can’t protest; but the timing and method is disagreeable to them. I’m ok with these people protesting to their hearts content. But now people are protesting the protestors and I think that is equally valid.

    You mentioned Christ overturning the tables and a number of other events and earlier I was trying to think of an analogy that might present the issue in a different light. I think if you switch the dynamic it’s helpful. In the analogies you mentioned you sympathised with the issue of the protestors but if you didn’t the disagreement might become more understandable to you. I’m not sure my analogy will do it for you but if not maybe you could come up with one on your own.

    Let’s say you are celebrating communion because Christ died for you. The pastor is in front of the congregation speaking during the sacrament. The congregation is seated but one individual stands. The focus is taken off the sacrament as everyone looks at this individual. You can imagine discource that would ensue as this continues time and time again. I’m not sure how this would be dealt with in the church but I think alot of folks would not want to tolerate it.

    Hope its helpful.


    PS I don’t watch much football but I find the discussion interesting.

    1. tomvanderwell Post author

      Steve, Thanks for taking the time to write. A couple of thoughts……

      You say, “Americans traditionally honor…..” But does that mean it is the only way to honor it?

      You say “It’s not about the flag or the anthem persay, but about what it represents.” What it represents to us as free white men or what it represents to black men? Because let’s face it, they are in many ways not the same thing.

      “The timing and method is disagreeable to them” I’ve heard a number of authors state that the very definition of a protest is that it needs to be at a time and a method that is disagreeable to the people you are protesting to or about or against. Is the fact that it’s disagreeable to them because they don’t want to be reminded of how the black man’s history is different than the white man’s? Or is it because it makes their Sunday afternoon less comfortable or because they are truly opposed to people kneeling for the national anthem?


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