Recently I read a post that stated we all needed to “act” like Americans. The post insinuated if you didn’t stand for the national anthem; if you burned a flag or opposed Confederate monuments, you weren’t “acting” like an American.
I thought about that for a minute.
What exactly does “acting” like an American mean? Is there only a certain way to “act” like an American? As a US citizen, no matter what I do, am I not by definition “acting” like an American?
I know. That’s a lot of questions. So, to better understand this whole “acting like an American” concept, let’s take these issues head on, shall we?
Burn the flag/Kneel for the National Anthem
Pride in our country is a good thing… usually. I grew up a patriotic, red-blooded American boy who believed in “My country, right or wrong!” If you asked me at that time what makes America special, I’m sure my answer would have mirrored most of my fellow citizens. What makes this country unique are the freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. The first 10 amendments of our Constitution assure that our rights as US citizens are secured by the highest legal document of our country. And as most of us learned in school, the first amendment of the Bill of Rights deals with freedom of speech. This amendment states, “Congress shall make no law… prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech…”
So as citizens of this country we have the freedom to exercise our free speech. It may not be anything you want to hear. It may be personally offensive to you or contrary to your beliefs. Tough.
As long as the speech is within common sense limits (you can’t yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater for example), it is GUARANTEED by our Founding Fathers. And guess what folks? That also includes burning a flag or not standing during the national anthem. We can do these things because people are exercising their freedom of speech. While we may not like it, these are non-violent expressions of protest. No one is injured by these actions. Fellow citizens are calling attention to perceived injustices in our country.
In the 1960s, black Americans assembling peacefully to speak out for their right to vote were brutally suppressed by local police. Images of fellow Americans being attacked by police dogs or having fire hoses turned on them as they marched peacefully through the streets are burned into our collective psyche. Why? Because those images are examples of what happens when freedom of speech is silenced.
You may hate the message, but if you are truly “acting” like an American, you support the right for people to say it anyway.
As an amateur historian, I scratch my head at why people are so opposed to the removal of these monuments. First off, they are not “history”. By definition, history is “the study of past events, particularly in human affairs”. Monuments are erected to commemorate a notable person or event.
And if I were “acting” like an American, why would I choose to support monuments to traitors to my country? Going to the Constitution again, Article 3 Section 3 defines treason against the United States as, “…levying War again them [United States], or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” Wasn’t the Confederacy guilty of waging war? Did it not confiscate US government property and kill American soldiers who protected that property?
Public monuments should commemorate people who supported the country. All my life I have been told that these symbols represent heritage, not hate. Well, as a southerner and a US citizen, this is not a heritage I care to support. I’m sorry, but killing thousands of my fellow countrymen sounds an awful lot like hate to me.
BEING an American
Being an American is not an “act”. A citizen in this country can burn a flag, demonstrate against injustice by sitting during the playing of the national anthem, speak out or against anything they choose. They can also worship the god of their choosing, marry whoever they want, be whatever they wish. All of these things are rights granted to us by the Constitution. In exercising these rights, they are, in fact, “acting” like Americans.
So the irony of the post saying they are NOT acting like Americans should not be lost on anyone. If burning flags or opposing symbols of hate bother you, speak up. Your freedom of speech is guaranteed too. And I won’t say you are not “acting” like an American; because you are; just an intolerant one.
When did “acting” like an American become more important than being one?