I always stand….for the U.S. Constitution

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By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

The other night, as I have done countless hundreds of times, I stood with my hand over my heart during the playing of the National Anthem on the sideline of a local high school football game.

None of the players on either team chose to kneel — but honestly, I wouldn’t have had a big issue with it if they had. Last time, I checked, this is America, a country literally built on peaceful (and not always peaceful) demonstrations. I grant that it is a bit more touchy for high school kids — and think a team vote on the matter is probably the best way to go, as it is so crucial for these kids to stay on the same page.

But I fail to understand when a peaceful, even respectful — one takes a knee to listen to a coach, or when a fellow player is injured — statement of protest somehow became an insult to the flag, the military or the nation. Folks are, with some justification, protesting what they see as unfair treatment of minority groups by police and the justice system. Whether you agree or disagree, it seems pretty hard to argue that folks have a right to protest — but that is exactly what some folks are trying to do.

I am at a loss to understand exactly what is more American than engaging in peaceful protest. Protest is literally in the DNA of this country:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

Preamble, The Declaration of Independence.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the 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 to the U.S. Constitution.

So what we are talking about here is two groups: one is protesting the treatment of a racial minority, literally seeking a “redress of their grievances” with the government; another group is deliberately misrepresenting that and challenging the first group’s exercise of their rights as citizens.

Now of course, freedom of speech does mean the right to express one’s opinion — myself included — but this issue isn’t about love of country. I would suggest those protesting and seeking a better America do so out of love and respect for their country while most of those making a stink about it are doing so for cynical political reasons.

We have to do better. A fair debate on the merits of the complaints behind the protests is what is really in order — not the flag-draped demagoguery we’ve seen in recent weeks. Are you really a great American if you wrap yourself in the flag and spit on the Constitution?

Not in my book.

I will stand up seven days a week and twice on Sunday for the principles of the U.S. Constitution, from free speech to equal protection — many of which are under attack, covered by a veil of faux-patriotism.

Stunts such as that of Vice President Mike Pence this past weekend — at the behest of President Donald Trump — don’t illuminate or elevate, they denigrate the national conversation and further divide our people into “us” and “them.”

If we give into that, then maybe we all ought to kneel.

Not in protest, but in shame that we’ve forgotten our founding principles — such E Pluribus Unum (Our actual national motto — Latin for “Out of many, one” not as falsely claimed “In God We Trust) — that we no longer know or care about the fundamental meaning of being an American citizen.

If we allow that to happen, we will have made ourselves a lot less great.

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