Simons Says That: A Blog about First Amendment Issues

My feelings on #takeaknee

They’re both right.

President Trump is right: Some people, including himself, feel kneeling during the national anthem is disrespectful.

The NFL players are also right. Racial injustice exists in America. To fight injustice, you have to speak out against it.

So what’s the problem?

The American flag means many different things to different people. For some it is a symbol associated with pride in the military. For others, it is a symbol of the principles that the country was founded on. Others will look at and think of current and past injustices in America’s history of racism.

That’s the point of the First Amendment.

The President is expressing his views. NFL players are expressing their views.

I think the mistake in this debate is trying to pick winners and losers.

I think the fact that we live a country where this conversation can happen makes us all winners.

The gift of the First Amendment is the freedom to debate. To learn about other people’s viewpoints.

Even if someone disagrees with those views.

Trying to convince someone that what they feel is “wrong” shouldn’t be the goal.

Why not use debate to understand why someone has a different viewpoint?We can respect someone else’s viewpoints, and still not agree with them.

I once asked a Texas native why some people are such staunch defenders of gun rights. I know that I would never think of owning a gun myself. Where I live in Brooklyn, more guns means more violence which means more crime. Why would anyone want that?

He answered that where he is from, guns are viewed as protection against the very violence and crime that I feel more guns perpetuates.

Rather than banning guns to prevent horrific national tragedies involving gun violence, adding more guns will actually help to prevent that violence. If a teacher has a gun in his or her desk, the teacher could shoot someone who comes into a school and kill that person first before he or she will hurt others.

Perhaps that would’ve prevented (or limited the casualties) that occurred during the Newton, Connecticut school shooting massacre?

A valid viewpoint that I understand.

But I still don’t agree with.

The point is we were able to have the dialogue in the first place.

So instead of trying to decide what the flag should mean and whether taking a knee during the National Anthem is right or wrong….

Ask yourself: What does the American flag mean to you?

Because ultimately there is no right or wrong answer to that question.