One of the small historical details that I have an increasing amount of admiration for is Dr. King’s use of the flag as a part of his movement. At a time when Black people were segregated, discriminated against, spat on, and hosed down by police, Dr. King marched with the flag. He understood that the values the flag represented were larger and more transformative than the issues of the time… That through proper alignment with those values would come unity, equality, freedom, and justice for all.
Many have made the kneeling issue a veteran/KIA issue. And while I am personally sympathetic to that argument, I have to remind myself that the flag is bigger than that. So instead, I view this contraversy as a proxy battle stemming from a much deeper problem: The general feeling, real or perceived, that many in the country are disgusted by the flag.
You see it in videos of flag burnings. You see it when black clad mobs suppress people carrying flags. You see it in the revisionist histories being preached by academia that highlight and emphasize America’s shortfalls while ignoring America’s triumphs. You see it every time someone calls the flag a symbol of oppression. You see it when a political candidate says “America was never great”. Against this backdrop, its easier for many to view the kneeling protests as a stunt that does more damage than good.
The flag is supposed to be something we all agree on. Something we all unite behind. Violating the social rituals associated with the flag in order to further your cause may seem admirable in the short-term, but have we counted the cost? In an age where everyone is divided by race, sex, religion, politics, social class, and every other way you can arbitrarily divide humans, we are in desperate need of something to unite us.