The furor over Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem continues, and in one Alabama town it turned ugly on Friday evening. According to AL.com, the public address announcer at Butler County’s McKenzie High School football stadium made an outright call for violence against those who may choose to exercise their First Amendment right of protest by refusing to honor the flag.
According to the report, the announcer was Pastor Allen Joyner, of Sweet Home Baptist Church in McKenzie. While there is apparently no available recording of what he said, it was reported on Facebook by a woman named Denise Crowley-Whitfield, who agreed with the pastor’s remarks. According to Crowley-Whitfield’s post, this is what Joyner had to say:
If you don’t want to stand for the national anthem, you can line up over there by the fence and let our military personnel take a few shots at you since they’re taking shots for you.
AL.com says that the post had received more than 50 comments, all in agreement with the sentiment, and had been shared more than 4,700 times by Saturday afternoon, when Crowley-Whitfield deleted her Facebook account. But the internet never forgets, and the post lives on thanks to Google Cache.
The Sweet Home Baptist Church’s Facebook page has also been deleted following the pastor’s remarks. But before the page was removed, someone at the church posted this:
What Joyner allegedly said was bad enough. But for Crowley-Whitfield to follow her quote of his comments by saying that she “needed to see some good in this world after a disheartening week?” Is that where these über-patriots are now? We will all be patriotic in the ways that they deem acceptable, or else face execution? It’s no wonder Trump supporters seem to be ok with his praise of dictators like North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, who would probably not hesitate to do exactly what Joyner called for.
According to Inquisitr, Butler County Schools Superintendent Amy Bryan issued this statement about the incident:
Patriotism should be a part of school events but threats of shooting people who aren’t patriotic, even in jest, have no place at a school. Threats of violence are a violation of school policy and certainly not condoned by the school board.
But even that disavowal of the pastor’s remarks is problematic. Bryan’s statement assumes that anyone who refuses to automatically spring to his or her feet at the sound of the first strains of The Star Spangled Banner isn’t “patriotic.” But those who choose to protest are exercising the ultimate in patriotism by speaking out for change. Lost in this conversation is the fact that had a group of American colonists not spoken out for change, the United States would not have been formed at the time and in the manner it was. And, apparently lost on people like Crowley-Whitfield and Joyner, almost every significant change in America since that uprising started with a protest.
In fact, while this is admittedly speculation, it is likely that Joyner and his church have protested on some level recent changes in the law that guarantee equal rights to gay and transgender Americans. Would that make Joyner “unpatriotic?” Or is he ok, as long as he salutes the flag and sings the anthem at the top of his lungs? And there’s the matter of respect for President Obama. Many of the same people who have been savaging Colin Kaepernick have also been savaging our president for the past eight years. Is it less “patriotic” to refuse to stand for the national anthem than to attack the president with a series of false claims about him?
Sure, some members of the military, past and present, get upset when someone “disrespects” the flag. But there are plenty of them who realize that they fought not for the flag, but for all it represents, including the right to protest. That includes not standing for the national anthem, and it includes criticizing the president of the United States. Sadly, the über-patriots don’t see it that way. “Freedom of speech” means only the freedom to agree with them.
Patriotism is like religion. It can’t be forced on someone. Sure, you can go through all the motions in order to not create a stir. But if you look around and see things that could be fixed, but aren’t being addressed, it’s hard to be “patriotic.” The constitution says that if you choose to protest, you have the right. Some who claim to love that document think that if you want to protest, but don’t do it in a way that they find acceptable, others have the right to protest by killing you.
Featured image via Preps.com