Spady: Standing or not standing for the anthem does not define your morality
This week I gave a speech at Everett Community College to kick off a debate between Democrat and Republican students. I was planning to gear the speech towards the idea of partisanship, how we are misusing labels, and why we should not rely on our political affiliations to define our own morality.
Preceding me on the microphone was a woman who gave a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem. It was impossible not to notice the several students on the Democratic side who remained seated. Two students even took a knee. I decided right then that I needed to retool my speech.
Instead of talking about labeling, I decided to talk about that room.
As a member of the media, I could take many different angles. We could discuss patriotism, the symbolism of the flag, or even free speech. I decided on a different take. I believe their “protests” have actually done something positive – started a conversation.
By staying seated, these students are expressing their opinions about racial and gender inequality, police brutality, and probably President Donald Trump. Whether you agree with them or not, at least they’ve given us an opportunity to discuss these disparities.
I don’t think the fact that they “protest” the anthem makes them bad people. I don’t think it means they’re not as smart as me. I also don’t think that people who stand for the anthem are unanimously good people. Their stance on the National Anthem doesn’t give us any insight into their character.
This brings me back to what my original speech was about. We can’t let the fact that we identify with different political parties define our morality. It doesn’t!
Being on one side of an issue doesn’t make you better than someone who feels different. I guarantee that Democrats want to “make America great again” too. They just have a different idea on how to get there. No matter how they feel about the issues, I am happy with these students for showing up to have a debate with each other. They ventured outside of their echo-chambers to hear opposing opinions. The act of listening to those who disagree is becoming far too rare in our society.
When we cling to identity politics and glue ourselves to one point of view, we can’t grow as a country. We end up with scenarios like the shaming of the Covington Catholic students. People were so quick to see this event through the lens of their political opinions that they assumed anyone in a MAGA hat must be wrong. Just like people on the right might assume that anyone who is kneeling for the anthem is a bad, unpatriotic person. Maybe they are patriotic, but in a different way, from a different perspective.
My purpose at Everett Community College was to prove that we have more in common than we admit. Toxic partisanship does nothing to advance the conversation. If we aren’t willing to hear the voices on the other side, we will never find the rational opposition.
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