U.S. Representative Kristi Noem, who wants to be South Dakota’s Governor, recently asked her constituents this question: “When we stand for our anthem we stand for our troops. We stand for those who have stood at attention and sacrificed so much to defend our freedoms and our flag. I stand. Do you?”
Below is the answer I sent her (and my local newspaper).
I’ll tell you the truth, Ms. Noem. I stand for the anthem, but I do not cover my heart, and I do not sing. I bow my head in silent prayer. I’ve always done this, in adulthood. Because much as I appreciate my country, it isn’t my God, and I refuse to worship it like an idol. Neither will I worship its flag, or its anthem.
In my view, compulsory patriotism is idolatry. It is also fascist—just ask my husband, who grew up in Mao’s China and was made to bow, bend, recite, sing in every patriotic way imaginable.
I have family members who served in the military. I’m not opposed to the troops. I’m opposed to taking away the freedoms our troops try to defend—including the right to kneel when the national anthem is played.
Have you ever asked why the NFL players are kneeling? Throughout history, kneeling has been a gesture of respect. It’s not like these players are giving the flag a finger. They’re trying, very peacefully, to draw our attention to a very real issue in this country. But instead of talking reasonably with them about that issue, many of us are attacking them.
We need to listen to each other more and preach less. Let’s try to understand one another’s perspectives instead of resorting to name-calling and dog-whistling, especially to whip up our political supporters.
Thank you very much.