Kneeling of some NFL players during the national anthem created quite a bit of controversy last year, and President Trump's recent speech and tweets injected a fresh life into this controversy once again. NFL player Colin Kaepernick started protesting by kneeling during national anthem last year, his reason for the protest was police brutality and inequality faced by people of color. Now, we may or may not agree with his reasons or the way of protest. But, if he is exercising his constitutional rights to express himself, we need to respect his rights, if not his actions. I personally stand for any national anthem played during any function, but it is also true that no one can compel me to stand for it unless I want to stand. I voluntarily respect national anthems of all countries and it is my individual right to choose if I want to stand or not. The real respect has to be earned, it should be spontaneous and not forced or coerced. If someone is coerced to show respect to anything, it is not a display of respect, it is an obedience at most. An obedience out of fear of losing something, but definitely not a respect. Do we really want such respect from anyone?
A few years back, during one of the functions at my daughter's school American national anthem was played, and in the entire auditorium, one third grader was sitting during the national anthem. I was surprised to see this, as I was not used to witnessing anything like this. In India, I was used to seeing everyone standing for national anthem and prayers, it was a rule and there used to be a strict punishment for violating that rule, there was no choice or freedom. I was impressed by the way individual liberty of that student was respected in this country (he was just a third grader). I really got curious about this incident, and when I read more about constitutional rights, I came to know that many expressions are protected under the First Amendment and freedom to protest is one of them. In one of the very pivotal AUpreme Court decisions (Texas v. Johnson), the Supreme Court held that burning of the national flag during a political protest was a protected expression under the First Amendment.
Now, when the President of country questions NFL players right to protest and asks the owners of the team to fire them for exercising their constitutional right, that too when he does that using a very derogatory language abusing their mothers, it is really sad. It poses a very serious question, if the President of the country won't respect constitutional rights of its citizens then who else will? Off course, Mr. Trump has right to express himself under the same constitutional provision under which these players have that right. People should respect President's right to express himself, but it is also true that every position or job comes with certain obligations and responsibilities, and definitely, the US President's job definitely comes with lot responsibilities and obligations. As a President of a country like the USA, Mr. Trump has the responsibility to uphold the core values and principles of this great country. Individual liberty and respect for constitutional rights are part of the core identity of the USA, and if anyone dilutes these rights, this great nation might lose its unique identity. We need to respect other's rights not only when we agree with them, but especially when there is a serious disagreement, that is when our respect for others rights is really tested. I hope President Trump understand this, many of us, including him, may not agree with the choice of method to protest of these NFL players, but all of us should stand to protect their constitutional right. If not, then tomorrow it might be a turn of our constitutional rights to get abridged. Please remember, we need to protect others rights so that our rights also remain protected.
Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.