We are over 200 years old, and we have gone through many trials and tribulations. I ain’t “no ways tired.” I still breathe hope in the American dream. I still believe that America is worth the struggle. Every time we recite the national anthem – “Star Spangled Banner,” or the Pledge of Allegiance, our voices of liberty and justice ring throughout the land. This cause is a work in progress to establish a more perfect union. It is my core belief that, although, I may not agree with your position, I agree with your right to have your own beliefs, and that everyone should have equal protection under the law. Requiring citizens to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance violates the 1st and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
So, what does the American flag and national anthem have to do with liberty and justice? The flag, the Pledge and the anthem are relatively recent traditions and they represent what we are willing to defend and die for. Neither the flag, Pledge or anthem are mentioned in our Constitution. Today, there is still discrimination and the playing field is not equal. The reality is that it has never been. A token will not erase all the history or right all the wrongs. It will take time and struggle to get a perfect union. Like all that have come before, we just want the laws to be fair, and we want to be treated with respect. Legitimate authority comes from the people, not from the government. The defenders of freedom are not the government; it is the people. As Dr. King, so eloquently stated, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”
Why is Colin Kaepernick and so many others frustrated and are not silent about the civil and human rights issues of today? He is taking a stand for what he believes. What Kaepernick, like Dr. King, Muhammad Ali, and so many others have done in the past was a non-violent protest. Kaepernick is using his right as an American citizen to protest and not to be forced to bare allegiance to something he does not believe exist in reality. It is an irony to recite the words to the Pledge or the Anthem about the very concepts of liberty and freedom which he feels he does not have. Many communities have been under attack internally and externally for decades. We struggle for equal protection under the same laws, and that there should not be two sets of rules by those who have pledged to protect and defend and uphold the laws. There is no test or requirement in the US Constitution that requires a citizen not holding office to protect or defend the Constitution or its laws.
The American flag and the national anthem, a symbol and a chorus of words, have not always been used to protect or defend all its people. The National Anthem was not an Anthem until 155 years after the country was founded, it was made so in 1931. There is no mention of political parties or citizenship qualifications in the U.S. Constitution. The Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem as we know them today were not part of the American lexicon until the 20th century. The founders believe that it was our God-given right to be free and wrote that congress shall make no laws that abridge the freedom of speech or religion. Many do not know that the third verse of the national anthem makes a reference about slaves as traders for fighting to gain their freedom: “No refuge could save the hireling and slave
from the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:”
It is contradictory to the pledge that so many faithfully recite every morning in schools: “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” It is not right for children to grow up and observe that they do not have equal rights or the same protection under law.
As Americans, we pride ourselves to defend, protect and cherish our liberty. We even send our military, our young and brave, to protect others abroad. Equal rights, opportunity and representation should be the aspiration and the practice in all the land. What I do know about the American experience, even up to today, is that many of our stories and images continue to be excluded from the American narrative with great disparity.
For a perfect Union, we should recognize the value of all the people, and their full potential as humans. It was not so long ago, that Dr. King and the freedom fighters of the sixties stirred the conscious of America in the inequalities and lack of equal opportunities for many of its citizens. Even today, there are still many places in America where people are not welcomed, and are separated. There is often barriers and fences to separate us by class, race, gender, and educational qualification.
Many nationalities have fought for their freedom in the American Revolution, some 25K African American soldiers fought, and they also fought in the Civil War on both sides: Union and Southern slaveholding states. It was a paradox that the white man was fighting for freedom and at the same time denied freedom to the Black man. George Washington, a Virginian, led the American Revolution War Army and fought for liberty. He served as the first president and was a southerner who owned slaves.
Today, 240 years later, the story, and symbols of race supremacy are still used by some of our fellow citizens to demonstrate with contradiction our pledge to the American flag that guarantees liberty and justice for all. There is a need for all Americans to respect the basic right of all to be free. For some, the American flag stands for supremacy for some people and it reminds others of past injustices to them, while for others it represents the hope for a new future. The image and the reality are not the same. This is evidenced by the poverty in the inner cities, and police brutality resulting from their fear of the poor and those that are different. It is in direct conflict with the principle that people from all social backgrounds (social class, gender, ethnicity, and disabilities) want to be represented in all walks of life: education, sports, media, music, films, politics, military, board rooms, etc. In the end, history teaches us that we are stronger together, than divided. Rights without a voice and protection will not last for long.
–Edward E Williams, Ed.D. Chair, Concerned Citizens For Effective Government
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