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Lightfoot: To kneel or not to kneel


A few days ago I posted a photo on Facebook of our women’s soccer team standing for the national anthem, except for the captain of the team, purple-haired Megan Rapinoe. The rest of the team was showing respect by standing with their hands over their hearts, the way most of us learned in school.

Since then, Rapinoe has demonstrated a filthy mouth on TV and dropped the U.S. flag and walked on it, but that is not what this is about.

The posting created a large number of replies on all sides of the issue. Taking out the openly hateful messages and those from the screamers, the result was an interesting discussion of the kneeling issue.

To add to the interest, it came out just a day or two later that Nike was pulling shoes from that had a replication of the Betsy Ross flag emblazoned on the back. It seems washed-up NFL player Colin Kaepernick got his feelings hurt by the flag. Oh, yes, he is another kneeler who hates this country that has made him a net worth of $20 million and the only thing he has ever done is play a game! No military, no service to the country, nothing but self-serving actions.

A couple of the comments I got were aimed at the issue of free speech. I have known for years and respect the two gentlemen who offered their opinions on the photo. We hold different political views, however that has never been a hazard to having good conversations and discussion of issues. We enjoy the old saw of, “You can disagree but do not have to be disagreeable.” This is what they wrote:

Mike: “Check the definition of freedom, Jim. We fought a king and an army that were denying our freedom of choice and religion ... and we should be willing to fight for her right to exercise that freedom.”

And this from Ralph: “Freedom of speech is a constitutional right. Your not liking it doesn’t change that. The gist of this thread is that we shouldn’t pick the best athletes for the team, but only those that pass some political qualification.”

I agree with both of these gentlemen as freedom of speech is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment generally prohibits the government from infringing on, or otherwise banning, speech because it does not agree with the message being advocated.

My fervent disagreement comes from the fact (my opinion protected by the First Amendment) Kaepernick and Rapinoe are protesting the wrong way and the wrong thing.

Disrespecting our flag is an affront to everyone who held up their right hand and took an oath to protect this country from all enemies domestic and foreign.

Disrespecting the flag is a slap in the face to the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, uncles, cousins and other Gold Star families that have given up a loved one so the rest of us can live in peace and freedom.

Our flag represents the more than 1.1 million soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen who have given their lives so we can have a country where speech is free.

Granted, our country has its share of warts and ugliness. Everything isn’t right for everybody, but we are working on it. We all have the right to think whatever we want. You aren’t going to jail because your opinion does not agree with another person or with the government itself.

You still can be whatever you want to be if you will get off your behind and work. Is it easy? No. But anything of value requires effort, risk and energy. You will certainly have more self-worth and pride if you work for it. Sitting on your butt and expecting “free stuff” from the government is a dead-end street. You will have no self-worth and other people will treat you the same way.

Am I saying Kaepernick and Rapinoe haven’t worked hard to obtain the money and acclaim they enjoy? Absolutely not! They are both accomplished athletes and have worked hard in their respective sports to reach the level of play they both enjoy.

Our country allows each of them to protest whatever slight they may feel. They can give speeches, hold demonstrations, picket, assemble in public places and do anything else they feel appropriate under free speech. However, they do not have a license to disrespect the country that allows them to protest whatever is on their mind. I would suggest that a similar disrespect in most other countries would give you an expense-paid vacation in a cell of some kind.

From what I can tell by reading both of their histories, America has given them much more than they have given back. That’s my opinion and when I see them take a knee and disrespect all the men and women who have fought and died for this country so we all can live in freedom and peace, well, it makes me angry.

Maybe I’m old school, but if you are seated or standing beside me at a parade, a ballgame or any other occasion that the colors are presented, you better be on your feet, your head uncovered and your hand over your heart! Us old guys can be pretty tough!

— Jim Ross Lightfoot, a resident of White Oak, is a retired member of the U.S. House of Representatives who served Iowa from 1985 to 1997. He is an occasional contributor to the News-Journal.

Today's Bible verse

“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

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