A recent controversy regarding kneeling at the National Anthem during sports events has been raging for the last couple of years. Our president has been accused of acting more like a “dictator” in demanding respect for our flag and country. While some believe his tweets outrageous, others humorous, and still others cringe-worthy, the idea that it is wrong and unpatriotic to kneel at the National Anthem is spot on.

On this U.S. Flag Day, I wanted to share why our president is not wrong in this challenge to the view that kneeling for our flag is somehow an acceptable form of protest.

Our National Anthem is a salute to our flag. When you kneel to one, you are disrespecting the other. As smithsonianmag.com notes, “We Americans don’t have a king or queen. We have a flag.” People on the other side of the political spectrum from our President should take this under consideration. You are not disrespecting POTUS when you kneel because he is not a king; you are disrespecting all the men and women who fought and gave of themselves for you to have the right to protest and speak and think for yourselves without the state suppressing that right.

Our flag represents us, the American People, not the President nor the abusers of a certain race or ethnicity, but this nation as a whole and all the sacrifices good people have made to make it the wonderful country it is today. Yes, we make mistakes and have made mistakes in our nearly 250 year history. The road here was long and fraught with peril and ugliness as well as goodness, inventiveness, and successes, but the fact that protests such as the ones we saw on the football field last season could even happen here without dire consequences to the protesters is a testament to our First Amendment and our national dedication to our Bill of Rights and our Constitution.

No matter who is in power at any given time, as long as this country stands up for our Constitution, we all should give thanks to God for the blessing of this great nation and the flag that honors it.

Our Flag Throughout History

REVOLUTIONARY WAR – Although there were many flags flown throughout the Revolutionary War by different factions of Colonials fighting the formidable British military (find a list here: https://revolutionarywar.us/flags/), the Continental Congress passed the flag act in 1777 to establish one flag for our infant nation.

“The American flag is flown in battle for the first time, during a Revolutionary War skirmish at Cooch’s Bridge, Maryland. Patriot General William Maxwell ordered the stars and strip[e]s banner raised as a detachment of his infantry and cavalry met an advance guard of British and Hessian troops.”

“Today the flag consists of thirteen horizontal stripes, seven red alternating with 6 white. The stripes represent the original 13 Colonies; the stars represent the 50 states of the Union. The colors of the flag are symbolic as well: Red symbolizes Hardiness and Valor, White symbolizes Purity and Innocence and Blue represents Vigilance, Perseverance and Justice.”

WAR OF 1812 – For Francis Scott Key, the writer of the National Anthem, observing our flag still waving in the early dawn as British ships attacked Baltimore in the War of 1812 meant that Americans were still holding the Harbor. The tattered but still waving flag gave him great hope that the troops were standing firm against the assault and our nation would hold together for the long run.

CIVIL WAR – For retired Sea Captain, William Driver, flying his ship’s flag, “Old Glory,” at his Nashville home was an act of defiance during the Civil War, as Tennessee had joined the Confederacy (along with two of his own sons), and Driver sided with the Union. Confederates made attempts to steal it, so Driver had it sewn into a blanket and was able to successfully hide it until General Nelson, of the Union Army, came into town and ran “Old Glory” up the flagpole in town replacing the Confederate flag.

WWI – In World War I, our flag was put together to honor the dead at the “Scottish island of Islay. It was used in funerals for the more than 200 American soldiers who drowned when the SS Tuscania was hit with a torpedo by a German U-boat.” Five people on the island worked for hours to construct a U.S. flag using an encyclopedia for guidance.

WWII – For Silver Star veteran of World War II, Jim Krebs, our flag is “precious as the freedom it stands for.” Watch him talk about losing his twin brother fighting beside him at the Battle of the Bulge here: https://youtu.be/g6aNt_3WhAk

KOREAN WAR – Bill Colter, a Korean War veteran, is fighting today in Independence, Iowa, to keep our flag flying in his city, and although his city tells him it’s too expensive to keep up ($10 per month), he has vowed to use his own money to keep it flying, and he’s joined forces in his city to get the flag out of the city’s hands altogether. You can watch his interview here.

VIETNAM WAR – A highly controversial war, there are a multitude of attitudes even in those who served, as many of them were drafted and did not seek to fight in the first place. Today we honor those who lost their lives (over 58,000) at the Vietnam Wall Memorial. “The Vietnam Veterans Memorial stands as a symbol of America’s honor and recognition of the men and women who served and sacrificed their lives in the Vietnam War.”

GULF WARS – To friends and family of soldiers in the Gulf Wars, the flag is a reminder every day of the sacrifices those soldiers made and make in service to our country. Find very moving essays on “What the U.S. Flag Means to Me” here.  

TODAY – Our flag flies for those lost at Ground Zero and in a solemn field in Pennsylvania where Flight 93 went down. It flies on the Moon marking a victory and fulfilling a pledge from President Kennedy, and our flag flies at half staff in mourning for those lost. Our flag represents freedom and sacrifice, of which our military have given of themselves, their bodies, and their families for our right to fly our flag proudly as free persons.

The American flag represents home for most of our military personnel overseas. It represents every service members’ friends who died in action on the battlefield sometimes right beside them; it is draped over every military coffin that comes home, and it flies on the right shoulder of those in battle abroad as well as those protecting us at home.

POLICE – Our thin blue line between order and chaos, state and local police intentionally do not work directly for the federal government in order to enforce each states’ laws directly. However, many police officers have served in the military, so love of the country and flag comes naturally. “But at its core, the reason for the flag is to symbolize their civic role and responsibility – not just as lawmen and women – but as citizens of the United States. Of course, they are also charged with upholding the rights defined by the U.S. Constitution. Combined, these roles construct a sense of deeper connection to country, often which is borne out of the affinity for the American flag.”

So, How Should We Treat Our Flag

The obvious answer is with respect; however, what is the correct way to do so? What are the rules of respect?

Here is the “Flag Code” from USFLAG.org:

  • The flag should never be dipped to any person or thing. It is flown upside down only as a distress signal.

  • The flag should not be used as a drapery, or for covering a speaker’s desk, draping a platform, or for any decoration in general. Bunting of blue, white and red stripes is available for these purposes. The blue stripe of the bunting should be on the top.

  • The flag should never be used for any advertising purpose. It should not be embroidered, printed or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use. Advertising signs should not be attached to the staff or halyard

  • The flag should not be used as part of a costume or athletic uniform, except that a flag patch may be used on the uniform of military personnel, fireman, policeman and members of patriotic organizations.

  • The flag should never have placed on it, or attached to it, any mark, insignia, letter, word, number, figure, or drawing of any kind.

  • The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.

Learn more about the flag code here: