As I have read posts from both “sides” of the current cultural conflict, it has become clear to me that there are a variety of views on this whole kneeling protest thing.
Some view kneeling during the National Anthem as showing disrespect to our flag, country, military, etc. While others view it, not as an act of disrespect to those things, but rather calling attention to a cause in a respectful way. It’s obvious that there are different opinions on the role and significance of kneeling and standing.
When I think of kneeling (outside of the current context of athletes and the National Anthem) the main idea that comes to my mind is submission. A subject kneels before her King. A servant kneels before his master. A defeated foe kneels before the victor.
As I think of significant times that I have knelt, I recall kneeling at an altar, submitting to God as Lord. I remember going down on one knee as I presented the flag from a coffin to a grieving loved one. I can think back to times when on field exercises, when a military superior would tell us to “take a knee” so he could impart to us his wisdom.
On the flip side of kneeling, the act of purposely standing has meaning as well. In the military, we stand when a superior officer enters a room. Proper manners dictate that we stand when someone greets us and offers his/her hand to shake. It used to be that when a woman joined you at the table, the men would stand. When we want to honor a speaker or performer beyond simple applause, we stand to our feet. Often we stand to show admiration for a special guest or recipient of an award.
Submission, respect, honor. We can offer these things when we kneel as well as when we stand but standing or kneeling at the wrong time could have the opposite effect of what it would in another situation.
Context is everything.
It rings hollow when we try to say that we mean no disrespect when doing something opposite of what is normally the respectful thing to do. If in a given situation, the norm is to stand to show respect, to refuse to stand is a clear act of disrespect no matter how hard one tries to rationalize it.
I’ve stated many times on my blog that I am a very patriotic person. I study and admire the historical figures who had a vision for a country where people could live and worship freely. I’ve devoted a good portion of my life to minister to men and women who have committed to fight and, if necessary, die to defend the freedoms that are ours as Americans and to bring them to oppressed peoples around the world. I have deployed to war zones, like many other military members, in service to my country. I have lived in and visited other countries and am always excited to return home to my country. I often shed a tear as I gaze on Old Glory while singing the National Anthem at ceremonies and services.
So for me, the thought of doing anything but standing at attention during the National Anthem is anathema.
However, I am also quick to defend your right to choose to protest this or that by not standing during the National Anthem if you think it will accomplish something good. I may not like it and honestly, I’ll probably think a little less of you (though I’ll try not to show it), but your right to protest is one of the freedoms that make the United States the great country that it is.
So go ahead and kneel, stand, sit, do somersaults if it will help, but do it sincerely. Do it humbly. Do it selflessly. Do it respectfully.