Opinion Columns & Blogs

Stand up, sit down, kneel

Well, it’s football season and what a great time of year it is! “Lean to the left, lean to the right, stand up, sit down, kneel!” Oops, sorry, this is a new version of an old cheer I heard the other day, liked by many, hated by most and — absurd. And not absurd for the reason you may be thinking, but for this reason.

The idea that an American professional football player should have to be forced to show respect for his country is absurd. That respect should have been taught and taught early. And furthermore, it’s absurd that some should have to be forced to show respect for their home, after all, this is where they live.

Absurd that some have to be forced to show respect for their history, culture, people, etc. I had an uncle years ago, an old guy at the time, who had been through the trials of life and most everyone in the family knew of those trials. He had lived through World War I, World War II, The Great Depression, Prohibition and Korea.

By the time I knew him as a teenager, he was a tired, withered old man in his late 80s. His life had not been easy and his warts were there for all to see. Still, he wore them proudly whenever he came to visit with his white hair and tattered suit of clothes.

He was Uncle Cliff and he was revered and respected by virtue of his history and the fact that, in spite of not having everything he may have wanted, he had lived a productive, if not totally virtuous life. His mistakes were known by all and in spite of this they welcomed him into their homes voluntarily. No back was turned, no disrespect shown because of the mistakes he had made on his pilgrimage through time.

Sometimes I look at America the way I looked at Uncle Cliff, whose medals where worn beside the scars of life. He was not perfect and neither is America, but, as Neil Joiner (joinerscorner.com) said in his wonderful poem, “What America Is,” “America, my son, is just what we make her. She’ll stay where we leave her, go where we take her. She’s more than a country, a people, a place. She’s liberty, freedom, justice, and faith.”

We “take” America where we want her to go at the voting booth, and we don’t disrespect her during that process but we accept her for all her warts. Like Uncle Cliff, she’s worth having around. Just ask the million upon millions of people inside her and throughout the world who benefit from her love and benevolence.

Also, please remember this. America is a living thing composed of living beings, not a nebulous something or other. We are America, each one of us and we ebb and flow like the tide influenced by the moon.

Change comes slow, sometimes for the good, sometimes not, but always there will be change. And we determine how that change will take place, peacefully or in the streets. We are the “deciders.”

If there are, as some would suggest, outside influences trying to decide what we are or are not, we need to be strong in our beliefs as Americans that we stand for what’s good, right and just in spite of our mistakes.

We make the decisions as to who we are and in the process of making those decisions, each of us must not lose sight of the fact that America, that beautiful place, with all its warts, is worth respecting and cherishing as our home.

We honor her with a flag, an anthem and cemeteries scattered all over a world she saved and will continue to save as long as we live. I’m OK with “stand up, sit down, kneel” because it’s their right to do it and my right not to watch it. But something about it makes me think of ol’ “Mammy” in “Gone With The Wind,” played by Academy Award winner, Hattie McDaniel. “It ain’t fittin’, It jes’ ain’t fittin’.”

Sonny Harmon is a professor emeritus at Georgia Military College. Visit his blog at http://sharmon09.blogspot.com.