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What It Means to “Disrespect”


What is respect?

The President of the United States, in a speech to a friendly audience, stated:

"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he's fired. He's fired. You know, some owner is going to do that. He's going to say, 'That guy that disrespects our flag, he's fired.' And that owner, they don't know it [but] they'll be the most popular person in this country."

He then followed with a tweet, saying:

"If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect. ... our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU'RE FIRED. Find something else to do!"

This is the President of the United States.

In my blog pieces, I have hesitated to criticize Mr. Trump directly, but I want to talk about the nature of speech and the what it means to “disrespect the country.”

I argue that it is disrespectful to the country if someone deliberately manipulates tax loopholes to owe as little as possible (or nothing), to pay a lower marginal rate than most Americans, and then brag about it.

I think it is disrespectful to the country for that person to mock citizens who are disabled or minority.

I believe it is disrespectful to the country if that person also deliberately maligns soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the country or who suffered and overcame seven years in a Vietnamese prison.

And I think it is disrespectful to the country for that person to disregard all that US soldiers fought for in places such as Omaha Beach and Guadalcanal by equating white supremacists with those who protest against them.

In a previous blog post, I asserted that college presidents would be in their rights to limit guest speakers who intentionally seek to provoke the community at large through hate speech. The type of speech our President is condemning here is of a different sort—peaceful, silent, and symbolic. There is no hate expressed when a football player takes a knee.

I think a reminder about exemplary behavior might be in order. What are we talking about?

Courage: taking an unpopular stand, not provoking a crowd that you know agrees with you.

Sacrifice: serving in the military or paying your share of taxes, even if you wish you didn’t have to do so. It is not avoiding difficult decisions and circumstances in your life.

Respect: honoring others, even if they have a different political opinion, and especially if they have exemplified courage and sacrifice. It does not mean calling people “sons of bitches.”

So who is really disrespecting whom?

Who is the real patriot here?

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