Don’t use the flag and national anthem to protest

Tis the season to protest in America. The president and sports celebrities take it too far.

How this all started and how it escalated is less important than the weekend blowup that engulfed America, when average folks count on taking a break from tensions of the week at work and in the news and enjoy the diversion of sports events. Now it’s all blurring together and social tensions have invaded the sporting arena.

Sports have become more political for a long while now, but this is that on steroids (which is another story altogether).

The case of Donald Trump vs. the players of the National Football League is emblematic of our political moment: At its heart is a very serious issue, but that issue is wrapped in so many layers of celebrity, stupidity, opportunism, social-media hysteria, and crassness that it is nearly forgotten.

What is that issue? It’s embedded in the Pledge of Allegiance, a pledge to ‘one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all’. And in the National Anthem, focusing on the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ yet waving ‘O’er the land of the free’…

One very serious issue is how indivisible we really are, and how we use the freedom we have. But overarching that two-part concern is the thick-as-blood honor we pay to those who have fought for generations, paid a great price or the ultimate sacrifice, to preserve the rights and freedoms of the United States. And the flag and National Anthem represent that. The flag drapes the coffins of Members of the Military Services killed in action, it flies at half staff in memory of those who gave their lives in service, it famously was captured in an iconic photo as it was being raised at Iwo Jima by six Marines in World War II. Which turned into the Marine Corps War Memorial in Washington DC.

Most Americans probably don’t know how the National Anthem even came to be the opening of major sporting events. In fact, as a Chicagoan, I didn’t even know the Chicago Cubs were part of that history. It’s edifying to see a nation united in that respect for its shared history, rough as some of it had been. Rough as it is now.

So is it the flag athletes are disputing, or the anthem? No. But they’re using that ceremony at the start of major sporting events to protest other grievances and injustices, and that has all of a sudden become a national big deal. Because President Trump posted some jabbing tweets that baited both his opponents and his base into reactionary behavior that would play to visceral emotions already deeply felt. Alas,

This fad may have petered out naturally after a few more months; Trump’s all but guaranteed that we’ll get it through the 2020 election.

After the weekend of ‘national anthem protests’ across the nation and the National Football League, everyone was wondering how the nationally beloved Monday Night Football game would handle it. It was pretty amazing to see, when it played out. Just before the National Anthem, a gigantic American flag was unfurled from one side of the football field to the other, cover the whole playing field. Kind of hard to protest that. And the players and owners didn’t want to, after all.

“I made my mind up on this issue,” (Dallas Cowboys Owner and General Manager) Jerry Jones said…”that I wasn’t going to comment other than I am very proud of the fact that the Dallas Cowboys and our players have always stood for the flag and the recognition for the flag always. What is important is to figure out that to show the kind of respect and the perception of respect. How can (the team) in front of a national audience show unity and a statement of equality. (The team) wanted to do that. It evolved throughout the organization, particularly over the last two days, and it was executed.

 

“I can’t say enough about the understanding and the awareness of our team and these young men, if you will, that basically said, ‘You know, that makes sense.’ There’s no need for us to talk about unity and equality and have 60 percent of this country mad at you because you’re not being perceived as honoring the flag. And this was a way to do both.”

As NRO editors figured this…

Of course football players and other professional athletes should stand for the national anthem. Not, as the critics so often put it, because America has been good to them, but because America is good. That the American way of life generates so much prosperity that young men can grow vastly wealthy playing a children’s game is not the least of the nation’s virtues, but it is not the most important of them, either. The United States of America has been, and continues to be, a force for liberty, decency, justice, peace, and prosperity both within its own borders and around the world. “The Star-Spangled Banner” may be an infamously difficult song to sing, but the sight of the flag it celebrates has meant liberation — and life itself — to millions of people around the world, from those looking through the fence at Buchenwald to those looking over the railing of a ship at Ellis Island. That is why you stand for the national anthem…

 

We have no doubt that most of those kneeling in protest during the singing of the national anthem are sincere in their concerns, and that they mean to use their high-profile positions in the service of the public good as they perceive it. Goodness knows professional athletes have been in the news for worse reasons. But making a spectacle of themselves during the national anthem disrupts an all too rare moment of civic comity, a time to meditate on our blessings rather than our grievances. There are a dozen different ways athletes and other celebrities might be of good service and bring attention to the issue at the center of this controversy…

 

Of course athletes have the right to protest. Their employers also have the right to set standards of professional conduct, and football fans have the right to change the channel. The president has the right to tweet. This is not a question of rights but a question of judgment, which was, unhappily, in short supply over the weekend.

Let’s get back to the business at hand. The president needs to work on national issues and geopolitical affairs and North Korea especially. Celebrity athletes need to play sports to the best of their abilities. And the rest of us have our assorted family and work obligations to fulfill, and community and charitable needs to address, especially in the ongoing need for relief in disaster struck areas hit by back to back hurricanes and earthquakes.

It’s humbling – or should be – that for people who survived such devastation, who are subsisting on absolute basics, having lost most of what they had with little to sustain them until substantial relief arrives and relief workers help to rebuild their lives, homes and communities, the American flag on the arm patch of the Coast Guard or Army Corps of Engineers, on the helicopters and trucks delivering supplies and flagpoles left standing after the storms, represents hope. It’s up to the American people to deliver on that.

President Trump’s first full business day

Included an Executive Order on taxpayer funding of abortion.

This is a ritual that the past several presidents gave Day One priority to, in deciding the order of business requiring immediate attention when sworn into office. It’s called the Mexico City Policy and Democratic presidents overturn it while Republican presidents reinstate it. President Trump did that, and then some.

Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser headed the pro-life coalition of advisers Trump consulted late in his campaign, and her organization has kept elected officials and voters well aware of the promises he made to pro-life citizens, and updated on latest news following up on those promises. Even since the most recent post to its website, SBA List sent out an update with more background on how comprehensive this Executive Order is, and why it needed to specify more than past reinstatements. And what Dannenfelser added:

1. President Trump has modernized the Mexico City Policy by directing the Secretary of State to implement a plan to extend the Mexico City Policy across all global health assistance funding.

2. President Trump has directed the Secretary of State to ensure U.S. taxpayer dollars do not support organizations that support or participate in the management of a coercive abortion program. An example of this would be the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which has a long history of supporting the Chinese population control program, which has included forced abortions.

“Not only has President Trump reinstated the Mexico City Policy, he’s modernized it by applying it to all foreign health assistance programs,” said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser. “For nearly a decade under President Obama, Americans have funded UNFPA, which has a long history of involvement in China’s brutal birth limitation policy – enforcement of which routinely includes the atrocity of forced abortions. Thanks to President Trump, the Secretary of State is directed to ensure Americans are no longer complicit in violating the dignity of women and children overseas. No longer will abortion be a top U.S. export.

This came as great news to pro-life advocates based in the U.S. and abroad.

Reggie Littlejohn of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers had written an open letter to President-elect Donald Trump in December, asking him to investigate Planned Parenthood and “If they are found to be complicit with coercive population control in China – as we believe they will be — we request that you defund them.”

Obianuju Ekeocha of Culture of Life Africa has released a video revealing the reach and attempted grasp of Marie Stopes International in exporting abortion to Africa. Culture of Life Africa has reason for hope in the reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy.

Marie Stopes says abortion is at the core of their mission and hopes to double their abortion-related services by 2020. Their staff has been caught on tape boasting of doing illegal abortions around the world, and their United Kingdom branch was recently forced to temporarily suspend abortion services for children and vulnerable populations due to serious safety concerns. Marie Stopes is also actively involved in trying to overturn prolife laws overseas. Organizations like Marie Stopes should not receive American taxpayer support.

Both Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush cut off funding to the UNFPA during their administrations. In 1993, President Bill Clinton resumed funding for UNFPA, but for fiscal year 1999 signed a foreign aid appropriations bill that zeroed out funding for UNFPA. Funding to UNFPA was again completely cut off under President George W. Bush. In 2008, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell explained: “UNFPA’s support of, and involvement in, China’s population-planning activities allows the Chinese government to implement more effectively its program of coercive abortion. Therefore, it is not permissible to continue funding UNFPA at this time.” President Obama resumed U.S. taxpayer funding of UNFPA in 2009. From 2009 to 2016, over $300 million has been appropriated for UNFPA.

Both Uju and Reggie will be my guests on radio Tuesday to cover the impact of the Mexico City Policy being reinstated, and the operations and agenda of the international abortion movement. They’re both eager to engage the conversation and more fully inform the public. This is the global conversation we need to have and to hear.