Flag is for unity — stand for it

On Facebook, I like to post photos of landscapes I fly my drone over, and that’s about it. In fact, I normally disagree with expressing any sort of political sentiments or personal opinion using social media for a medium as a rule of thumb. However, I’ll stray from that today. [Editor’s note: The author originally posted this essay on his Facebook page Sept. 26 before submitting it to the Enterprise.]

I try not to push my own beliefs on others, but please take a moment to read this and consider what I have written. We have issues facing us in our world today that most individuals can’t fathom; I can’t. But when it comes to our flag and our freedom, I feel there is plenty to be discussed.

Since seventh grade, I have had the honor being bugler for the Tupper Lake Veterans Honor Guard. This honor allowed me to experience standing on the edge of the cemetery and playing “Taps” as the final respects to an American veteran are made. This veteran is usually laid in a flag-draped casket or urn. I’ve done this more times than I would have liked to, but it is just as fulfilling as it is saddening. As I play, my stomach turns circles, and it never gets any easier. I stand there, looking toward a grieving family that more than once has been my own. I’m surrounded by servicemen and women whose character and stature are far greater than mine — people whom I can only aspire to be like someday.

“Taking a knee” is a form of peaceful protest. Peaceful protest itself is a right that water has ran red full of American blood for, a right that I stand behind fully. However, when it comes to “taking a knee” while our national anthem is played and our flag is proudly waved, we need to separate the entire situation from today’s social and political climate and see it for what it is. Being able to have varying perspectives is part of what makes this country so great, so here is mine.

To me, when American citizens see our flag flown and hear our anthem played, they have a moral obligation and moral duty to stand up and shut up. Our flag has a different meaning to everyone, but in this case, we need to realize that in and of itself, our American flag has nothing to do with Donald Trump, Black Lives Matter, oppression today, hate today, etc. It flies and flaps in the wind because of and for those who can’t stand for it, just because they were fighting for your right not to stand. It’s nothing short of ignorant and despicable to disrespect those who gave us that right.

The counterargument of, “Well, how else are we going to shed light on these issues that face us today?” is one that is constantly brought up, and it is a great question, one that I would like to see solved. I’m positive that there is a way to garner attention for and fix the issues that face America now. Somewhere in our nation, there is an idea that doesn’t trample the foundations that these 50 states were built upon by our forefathers. And what about the argument, “This has nothing to do with the flag or hating patriotism or disrespect to America and our troops?” I’m sorry, but to me, you can’t say that and continue your “protest.” Respect for the flag, national anthem and our troops goes hand in hand with standing up and giving a damn, as far as I’m concerned.

Think to yourself of that American flag folded into that neat triangle. When I picture that in my head, I see the two of them that sit in their cases in my bedroom, two folded flags that came off caskets, caskets of two of my family members who are no longer with us. They sit not far from my own father’s Purple Heart. As you can tell, service means a lot to me. I picture photos of a grieving widow, mother, son or daughter being handed one of these folded flags at a soldier or cop’s funeral/burial. I see in my head a replay of the times it’s been done as I look on.

Forget Trump; forget the media; forget football. See past the veil of “social justice” and “overcoming oppression” that today’s society has shrouded the stars and stripes with. See what this flag truly means to us. And think to yourself, have those who scorn our American flag ever been handed one beside a headstone and hole in the ground?

Hypocrisy can be found in some way, shape or form in almost every argument; I’m sure some of you will see it in mine. But what I’m trying to do is look past specific events and issues and look at something “big picture” that is hurting us.

So continue your disrespect of our great nation by kneeling for 60 seconds, and then going out and getting paid millions to throw a ball around for an hour. The silent majority in America sees right through you. We see the police officers throwing their vests on and risking their lives, waging a war on our own soil every day. And we see our troops protecting us from enemies foreign and domestic so we can sit home, kneeling, protected from harm and the reality that faces our world while they face death and peril constantly. Stop using the glue that holds our country together (our flag and anthem) to push a political agenda and to divide us further. One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Mitch Harriman is from Tupper Lake and studies at SUNY Potsdam.