That’s a word I don’t seem to hear much anymore.
I hear “OR” a lot.
This OR that. My way OR the highway. You either believe this OR you believe that, and if you believe that you’re wrong.
It’s not really anything new, but I started thinking about it a few days ago as all the fury erupted over NFL players taking a knee or sitting out the National Anthem.
I felt like I had to choose a side.
I had to pick one OR the other.
If I chose one I was on the side of Patriotism and Respect and Supporting Our Troops and Police and Firemen and if I chose the other I was declaring my support for the First Amendment and Equality and Social Justice.
Why would I choose one of those over the other?
I’m a veteran. I’ve not “fought” for our country, per se, as I never got deployed to a war zone, but I served 11 years in the Army and trained hard for that possibility. I love my country, my flag and have profound respect for our military, as many of them are literally my brothers, friends or relatives. I support our troops and live and work in a community full of soldiers, sailors and airmen.
I’m a Scout leader. I teach boys how to hold flag ceremonies, how to honor the flag, how to say the Pledge of Allegiance and how to be good citizens. On occasion, when warranted, I teach them how to burn a flag. Not in protest, but with reverence and respect when the flag has become overly worn and unserviceable. I teach them that when burning a flag what matters most is the intent in our hearts.
I believe passionately in Equal Rights. I’m white, but I know very well that my brothers of another color have barriers in front of them that I do not and that’s just wrong. I won’t ever begin to sweep that under the carpet and try to pretend it’s not true. I won’t stop fighting for them until the day they can be assured that a routine traffic stop doesn’t have to be anything but that. That their citizenship wouldn’t be any more questioned than mine based on skin color or because the syllables in their name don’t sound as Anglo-Saxon as mine.
And just as I believe in equality of race, I believe in equality of gender. For females and for transgender. It makes no difference to me – a person should be judged on their actions and what’s in their heart, not whether they choose to stand or sit or squat over a hole when they have to pee or how they wish to express their sexuality.
I believe passionately in the First Amendment. I will never, ever, support the silencing of a group or an individual just because their message is uncomfortable to me. If they are so passionate about their message I believe it is my duty to listen to it. I don’t have to agree with it, but I will always support their right to say it. I believe in listening to other opinions, not stripping away all that is uncomfortable or offensive to me.
I believe in the Pledge of Allegiance.
To the Flag.
To the Republic for which it stands.
Indivisible, which means that I will strive to not seek ways to divide us but to unite us, even when opinions aren’t the same as mine.
Under God, but with the freedom for others to encounter and express faith in their own manner.
And for Liberty and Justice FOR ALL. When that statement is not true, we should work towards making it become so, not work towards silencing those who point it out.
So, I will stand for the Flag.
But I will demand that the Flag stand for us.
ALL of us.
I’m not choosing one side OR the other.
I’m choosing AND.
I’m choosing US.