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October 23, 2017

9/27/2017 12:35:00 PM
Musings -- on the editor's mind
Ken Stern

Standing up for America. What does that look like?
Roger Pederson’s letter last week reminded us of Constitution Day. The Constitution was adopted based on compromise and change: slavery stayed and the Bill of Rights was added within a year. That is historical fact.
The Constitution would not have been adopted without the Bill of Rights being added to it. The first right is the first amendment, guaranteeing freedom of speech. Patriotic Americans love what their country stands for. We stand for nothing if we do not stand for freedom of speech: America was born dissenting. Dissent is why we are not British. Change, however slowly realized, is the historical thread weaving our country together.
Our flag’s 13 stripes represent the original colonies. That became law in 1818, after the 20-stripe flag, with more states coming, was deemed unwieldy and not handsome. The 50 stars are in a standard pattern that was only finalized in 1912. Our flag, too, has been a living, morphing document.
But, whether 13 or 20 stripes, and however the stars are arranged, a flag is just a flag, dyed cloth and colored threads. The flag has no meaning in itself. But it is the founding principles of our country, the reason we have a flag, that is important. Why do we have a flag? Because our revolutionary fore-parents challenged their British leaders and said No to repression in their time.
Now we have a president who wants (mostly) black athletes to stand up for the national anthem. While President Trump champions the symbol of the United States, the flag, his tweets show that he doesn’t realize why we rally around it.
Trump believes he defines the country’s meaning: America united as the leader defines united. He has shown he doesn’t understand what the flag stands for: The Constitution and it’s first words “We the People.” Trump doesn’t know his country’s principles. Worse, he is not troubled by the facts.
Blacks have had a rough 400 years in this country. Now some whites are displeased that blacks voice their pain and name injustices. Whites can disagree. They can leave football games. But if they tell athletes to stand and shut up, whites are showing they are not true Americans, that they don’t know what their country stands for.
Telling people to shut up and stand and salute is one so-called the American way. But that behavior is not what we have fought and died for.
Indeed, it is un-American.

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