1. We stand for the flag today, not to please ourselves but to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
The more than 1.2 million Americans who have died because of war. We stand for soldiers who initially inspired our national anthem, such as William Williams, a runaway slave who later died after having his leg blown off as part of the 38th U.S. Infantry at the Battle of Fort McHenry. We also stand for more recent heroes, such as Robert Kelly, the son of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, a marine lieutenant who died in a roadside bomb blast in Afghanistan in 2010.
“I believe every American, when the national anthem is played, should cover their hearts and think about all the men and women who have been maimed and killed. Every American should stand and think for three lousy minutes,” John Kelly declared in response to the NFL controversy.
2. We stand for the flag not to focus on what divides us but on what unites us, which is being an American.
“The name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles,” George Washington, our first president, declared in his farewell address in 1796.
The same is true today. More than being a New Yorker or a Texan or being a Steelers fan or Rams fan, the name “American” deserves our highest respect and pride. Standing for the flag and anthem at a sports game or other public gatherings, symbolically shows that we are all Americans, no matter our race or religion, no matter our preferred sports team, and no matter our political differences. Standing is the ultimate salute to sportsmanship.
3. We stand for the flag not to pledge allegiance to a president, but to honor the reality that we have an elected president and not a lifetime king.
By standing, we honor the fact that our country has had 45 presidents. Our flag reflects our system of government, divided by 50 states, the stars on the flag, but united under a federal government. The national anthem controversy in the NFL started during the term of our previous president and continues during our current president’s term.
4. We stand not because of past or present pain caused by injustice, but to salute the principle of justice.
This is one of the three definitions for the color blue that Congress gave us in 1782. “The colors of . . . those used in the flag of the United States of America. White signifies purity and innocence. Red (signifies) hardiness and valor and blue . . . signifies vigilance, perseverance and justice.”
Patriotism is not pride in the pain of our nation’s past. Rather, patriotism is pride in the principles that paved the way for change, whether that change was trading royalty for representation in 1776 or exchanging enslavement for emancipation in 1863.
From John Adams and Thomas Jefferson to Martin Luther King, Jr., many Americans have stood for justice for a more perfect union.
Read the full article as originally published on TheHill.com.