The Dallas Cowboys kneeled before Monday night’s game against the Arizona Cardinals — Getty Images


Freedom is not comfortable.

The massive backlash in response to Sunday night’s #TakeAKnee in the NFL has cable news network’s covering the nuances of protests and propriety well into the work week. Sunday evening there was a fair amount of uproar regarding the silent protests but also sincere confusion, many fans had no idea why the protests were taking place and found them at a minimum, a real distraction.

Americans have many questions to pose to themselves: Who is entitled to protest? In what way should one protest? Are all protests justified? Are unjustified protests morally wrong?

President Trump by his own admission believed so, tweeting ferociously that the NFL ought to change its policy, that the athletes themselves should be fired and finally, that the fans should not condone kneeling during the national anthem.

The President is entirely right, if you prescribe to the sort of patriotism dictators like Kim Jong Un do.

But not here. America is an experiment founded in the spirit of dissent and a desire to exist free of government influence. To say that the American people ought to merrily pledge their allegiance and reserve their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for office-hours is not only ludicrous, but it is fundamentally unAmerican. You see America is exceptional, and American patriotism is not blind obedience nor is it reverence beyond reason.

Most unfortunate about this week’s anti-NFL commentary is that it was voiced by self-described Republicans; and as such, is downright hypocritical. True Republicans should hold sentiments in line with the Party’s foundation. A brief history: In 1854 the Republican Party, the only anti-slavery party of the time, was formed to represent the moral minority, to go against the grain; to be champions of the unpopular, voices for the unheard. Early Republicans were unrelenting critics of the federal government, including its Executive office holder.

The Republican Party’s first ever position statement was its platform released in 1860. The platform outlined the very reason for the Party’s formation, a need for sweeping revolt against the current leadership; it was declared: “The present Administration has far exceeded our worst apprehensions, in its measureless subservience to sectional interest…such that an entire change of administration is imperatively demanded.” This is the spirit Republicans are supposed to embody in perpetuity. The platform goes on to state: “…The history of the nation, has established the propriety and necessity of the Republican Party, and that the causes which called it into existence are permanent in their nature.”

Translation: Freedom requires maintenance, and America, the beacon of freedom will always benefit from whistleblowers.

The danger of having an authoritarian-style President is that he equivocates the country’s fabric (freedom) with actual “fabric” (flags).

Personally, I understand in the value of our nation’s flag. It hurts me to see people engage in flag-burning or vandalism, among other acts that I find disrespectful and downright unnecessary. But as a true patriot, my only desire is to nourish freedom; my rights to freedom, and the rights of everyone else.

Is this easy to do? No, not always. Personally, an example comes to mind when I look back throughout my life on the many times I’ve been called a nigger; and when Whites (mostly men) shouted this at me, they were almost always driving, wearing or otherwise repping a confederate flag. I’d have every reason to associate the flag with every evil those men stood for. Yet and still, I’ve always known that a piece of fabric was not the cause of or cure to anyone’s racism.

I’ve always respected the rights of people to hold reverence for the Confederate flag. In some ways I do too, because although for some people, it represents heritage, it also represents dissent.

Even in 2017, we must remind ourselves that freedom is not comfortable.

The America we love, was conceived with dissent. Even in 2017, we must remind ourselves that freedom is not comfortable. But we have no choice but to embrace it, or else be a hypocrite, claiming to love freedom, while scoffing at others exercising it.

Patriotism is about love of country, not love of President. No matter the form, protest is dissent, and I, like Jefferson know that dissent is the highest form of patriotism.

“The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all!” 1787 — Jefferson

Simone Cherie is a nonprofit advisor, activist, and columnist based in Atlanta, GA. Affiliates: 20/20 Leaders of America and OUTSET Network. More @thesimonecherie

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