Some publicity oriented athletes are expressing their discontent with America’s failure to provide “equal justice for all.” They signal their disenchantment by deliberately not extending the usual courtesy when the U.S. national anthem is performed. The Star-Spangled Banner dates to 1814 when British war ships were bombarding U.S. shores. Congress made it the U.S. national anthem in 1931 during the Great Depression.
Americans have broad license to express their political thoughts. Newspapers are a traditional medium for such expression. In 1989 the U.S. Supreme Court held that desecration of the U.S. flag is an acceptable means of political expression protected by the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Even the late Justice Scalia, the ultra conservative member of the court, signed with the majority in that decision. Failure to render the customary courtesy when the national anthem is performed is legal. But the flag and the national anthem are not about America’s failure to reach all of the ideals we aim for. The flag and the anthem are about the 2.8 million dead and wounded soldiers, sailors, and airmen who defended our country and the right of anyone to express political opinions. The flag and the anthem are symbols of a country so successful that it can make professional athletes some of the highest salaried American citizens.
The flag and the anthem are symbols of a country offering so much opportunity that people from all over the world want to migrate to America. Some of them are even willing to enter illegally for the opportunity to live in the United States. During the past decade, the number of people who permanently left the U.S. each year averaged fewer than 2000. More than a million people legally moved to the United States each year.
Americans do make improvements. Woman gained the right to vote and now work at just about any job they choose. Six of every ten college students are women.
We need to offer everyone equality of opportunity. But some types of equality need to be more than opportunity; they need to be guaranteed. We, as a great nation, need to guarantee equality of educational provision, that is, schools, teachers, and funding. We need to guarantee the right to vote. We need to guarantee equality in the justice system. Publicity gestures that slight the national anthem won’t make things better. Making things better requires hard work. The following definition is from the American Heritage Dictionary. Anthem: A hymn of praise or loyalty.
Jack Stevenson is retired, served two years in Vietnam as an infantry officer, retired from military service, and worked three years as a U.S. Civil Service employee. He also worked in Egypt as an employee of the former Radio Corporation of America (RCA). Currently, he reads history, follows issues important to Americans, and writes commentary for community newspapers.