Thanks to our twisted media, America’s young men and women latch on to role models of the more unfortunate kind. This has been a problem since the invention of television, but it has become even more pronounced in recent years.
The latest imbecile to capture the imagination of America’s youth is Colin Kaepernick, whose protest against the national anthem is spreading like wildfire. Not only are Kaepernick’s fellow NFL players gradually joining in, but so are high school athletes all over the country. These young people, like all young people, are looking for something to believe in. Something to stand for. And in a culture that relentlessly celebrates selfishness and fleeting pleasures, it doesn’t take much to wake them out of their technological comas.
But in the absence of cultural patriotism or civic duty, they’ll be quickly swept away by a stance of any kind, even if it is built entirely on vapor.
For that reason, it’s hard to come down too harshly on the cheerleaders of Cornell High School in Pennsylvania. Sure, they showed tremendous disrespect by taking a knee during the national anthem – especially considering that it was being performed by a Veterans of Foreign Wars Color Guard. But we must remember, they are just trying to belong to something of greater significance than Facebook. This is, to a large degree, also explains young Americans who suddenly drop everything and go fight for ISIS.
Still, disrespect is disrespect, and you can’t blame the veterans in attendance for feeling slighted by the protest.
“They don’t know what they are doing, them young kids,” a WWII veteran named Danny Larocco told Channel 11 News in PA. “They don’t know what they are doing.”
“My friends and everybody else that served in the service, they have that right to be respected,” he continued. “We love our flag very much. We fought for it.”
According to Fox News, one school board official defended the cheerleaders, saying “symbolic speech is protected speech.”
And once again, we’re back to this strawman.
No one is trying to put Colin Kaepernick in prison for kneeling during the national anthem. No one is disputing that these cheerleaders have the right as Americans – nay, as human beings – to kneel during the song. That’s not the problem.
The problem is that we’re legitimizing their protests by pretending that there is some merit to Black Lives Matter.
The problem is that we have lost our national identity, having traded it in for an endless wave of “let’s try this!” episodes that leave us empty, angry, and desperate for something real.
The real America – the country that flag stands for and the country those veterans fought for – still exists. If we can bring it out of the darkness and back into the light, true patriotism will blossom once more.