For the past few weeks, people all over this country have been exercising their 1st Amendment rights. With the exception of the violence, it’s been awesome to see and to be a part of.
It’s also caused some arguments and hurt feelings with some of my friends because of different opinions and even the level of passion behind some of the things we’ve said. I’ve lost some friends because of it and I’m sure many have decided to “snooze” me for 30 days on Facebook. That’s fine. I’m OK with it.
Because change is hard. Because America is hard. Whether your someone who works for another person or company, if you’re a entrepreneur, whether your a public official, whether your just Joe and Jane Public raising a family and making their way through life – America is hard.
I know I’ve posted on this before, but I am a big fan of Aaron Sorkin. At times he’s farther to the left than I am and there are somethings he includes in his productions that I would debate against. But America is at the heart of what he writes. Especially in the movie The American President.
There is a speech given by President Andrew Sheppard (played by Michael Douglas) towards the end of the movie. He talks about what it is to be an American. He says:
America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say, “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing enter stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.” You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest.
Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free.”
Drew Brees stepped into a big mess this week when he talked about using kneeling during the National Anthem as a form of protest. He expressed his opinion that he would never agree with anyone who used the flag for a protest because of his family history. Two of his grandfather’s served in World War II. He didn’t realize at the time how divisive expressing his opinion would be.
Brees got a ton of negative and aggressive responses to what he said, ranging from “You’re wrong,” to “Wow how privileged are you” to “What kind of leader divides his team’s locker like that.”
I’ll admit, when I heard it, I was pissed and I quickly posted “SHUT UP, DREW!”
That drew the ire of a number of people who asked me, “Is he not allowed to express his opinion?”
“Yes,” I responded, “and I’m allowed to tell him to shut up for being dense.”
People quickly followed up with, “So you are saying Brees is dense because he doesn’t he doesn’t agree with someone kneeling to our national anthem rather than standing?”
“No … he’s dense because of the timing of his sharing his opinion … that is insensitive and inflammatory. Ecclesiastes, man. Everything has a time and a season.”
Since then, Drew has reached out to his teammates and friends of color and has come to understand both the bad timing of his statement and how kneeling during the anthem is not a slap at the country.
Indeed, kneeling for the anthem is an expression of what make America great. We can do that to protest the loss of black lives through police brutality, through racial injustice, and through institutionalized racism. Others can stand for the anthem (I’m one of those who choose to stand and protest in other ways instead). Others can jump on social media or other platforms against it.
But the one thing that the greatness of the 1st Amendment is doing is that it is bring so many people together to discuss and look hard at the racial situation in our country.
I have to give Brees props, not just for educating himself and gaining understanding of what is going on, but also for being a trigger for folks to get educated.
The 1st Amendment doesn’t protect you from a response to what you say or write. Those who decide to use #AllLivesMatter will most definitely get side-eye or more from me, but every time they do it gives me an opportunity to try to education folks on why that hashtags is inappropriate, inflammatory, and hurtful.
And if folks take a stance that “I’m not going to please everyone and that’s OK, it’s what I want to say and it’s what I believe,” then that’s fine. In some cases, we will have to part ways and celebrate the memories of what our friendship was. In other cases, we’ll continue to work through it.
But regardless of kneeling for a flag, marching in a protest, pointing out police brutality when you see it, donating to racial justice organizations, or however your part in the revolution is, this is a historical time in American history … and the 1st Amendment is right at the heart of it.
And that is why America is the Greatest Country in the World – faults and all.