THE CONSTITUTION AND A SECOND STRING QUARTERBACK For three weeks, I fought off the urge to write this column. I have tried to ignore this issue. But, on Friday morning, after our men’s Bible study, a man grabbed me as he left the office and sternly said, “Where is your backbone? Write the column.” He didn’t even know what column I was struggling with. So here it is. The recent disrespectful display of sitting down during the National Anthem by the second string quarterback of the San Francisco 49’s has further divided a nation that is in desperate need of healing. It was offensive to the vast majority of Americans of all races, religions, and ages. This man sat on a bench while his teammates, the opposing team, and probably every American at the game stood out of respect for this country as the National Anthem was played. This act of disrespect to his team, the NFL, and our nation’s musical symbol has been the subject of non-stop media attention. First, and most importantly, I acknowledge that he, just like all Americans, has the right to freedom of speech under the 1st Amendment to the Constitution. In this case, action or inaction, is considered to be speech. As Americans, we are fortunate that our Founding Fathers provided for the First Amendment. Without it, we would be without a freedom that is necessary for a free society to thrive. However, in this case, the former star quarterback exercised his right in a legal, but dishonorable way. Federal courts have held that Americans can legally deface privately owned flags, rip them up, draw offensive markings on them, and burn them to a crisp. This can be done right out in the open for all to see. But, the National Anthem and the American Flag symbolize a country unlike any in the history of mankind. A Constitutional Republic, formed out of 13 British colonies that won independence from the greatest Empire in the world, survived a brutal civil war, a great economic depression, a Cold War, and foreign wars that have affected every generation since 1918, has survived to this day. The United States began as an imperfect confederation of states. Over the years, our country became the sole national power in the world, defeated communism, and tried to heal the wounds of the past. But, since the presidency of George Walker Bush, I have seen a decline in our power, our culture, and the relations between our people. The quarterback claims that his actions were meant to draw attention to police misconduct, racism, and other racial issues. I cannot think of a more divisive and dishonorable way to express these feelings. While we have a series of serious problems in this country, the United States as a whole is our home. These issues can and are currently being addressed in appropriate ways, like in our federal and state courts. In the past, we were expected to solve problems and band together. This was historically done with the assistance of leaders like FDR and Ronald Reagan. We don’t exactly have anyone in the class of FDR or Reagan ready to step up and lead. In this current vacuum of leadership, things like the assault on law enforcement officers of all races rages across the country. This is getting worse folks, not better. At a time when our men and women protecting us need us the most, irresponsible people are fanning the flames of anger and contempt. What about our men and women serving in the military? As some have pointed out, it is true that their sacrifice encompasses protecting the Constitution, including the 1st Amendment. I totally agree with this. But, burning flags, sitting during the national anthem, and disrespecting a flag that these soldiers salute every day is a slap in the face to the people in our society who sacrifice the most. Just ask any soldier or veteran. So, the second string quarterback and his supporters are free to behave in any manner within the law. But, their actions further divide an entire country in desperate need of healing.