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Friday, September 2, 2016

Respect: Colin Kaepernick – The Extended Cut

Wrong question. Wrong questions get wrong answers.
-- Master Gregory, Seventh Son (2014)

 

As veteran, what do you think of the Collin Kaepernick controversy?

That was the question  As a veteran, what do you think …

Readers often ask me about current events. 

Why?

Why me?

Well, because that’s what I do nowadays. That’s my job. I’m a political essayist, I write about the world, about politics, about war, about America.

But I used to be in the military. I spent most of my adult life there. I’m a retired US Navy Chief Warrant Officer. If you don’t know what that is, well, you’re in good company.

Regular readers know my background, or a bit of it anyway. As such, no one asks me “As a writer, what do you think?” As an artist. As a Michigander by way of Alaska trapped in the fetid swamps of the Florida Panhandle. Nobody asks me that. They want my opinion as a veteran.

 

And that condition changes things.

 

Let’s start with the National Anthem. 

Guess what, Folks? The Star Spangled Banner doesn’t belong to veterans.

No, it doesn’t.

The national anthem is just that, the anthem of the nation.

This wasn’t some Memorial Day parade honoring the fallen. This wasn’t some Veteran’s Day ceremony upon the hallowed ground of Arlington. This was a sporting event and a preseason one at that. Look around that stadium, how many were talking on their phones? How many were texting? Or in line for hotdogs and beer? How many were watching Colin Kaepernick instead of the flag?

How many veterans were waiting for care in the lobby of some VA hospital while that anthem was playing?

How many veterans committed suicide in that same period, finally overcome by depression and despair and the weight of their service?

How many veterans were outside that stadium, sleeping in boxes on the street, digging in the trash for food, lost in the nightmares of PTSD and mental illness?

How many veterans were gunned down on the street while that anthem played?

How many veterans bills to address these issues passed the House and Senate while that song played?

And it’s a football player you’re angry about, because he didn’t stand for a song?

You want to make this about veterans? Then you’re starting in the wrong place.

This isn’t about veterans.

Veterans don’t own the song.

Veterans don’t own a song about a flag even if it is the Star Spangled Banner.

And that flag doesn’t belong to veterans either.

The song, the flag, those are symbols of a nation, the whole nation, not just one little subset of it.

At the moment, there are around 1.4 million people (not all of which are Americans) serving in the US armed forces. That’s less than half of 1% of the total US population. Now, there are a lot more former service members than there are those currently serving on active duty. Nobody is really sure exactly how many, but estimates put the number of veterans at about 22 million, based on VA data compiled from the Department of Defense, US Census Bureau, the IRS, and the Social Security Administration. Add up those numbers and you find only about 7.3% of the total US population have ever served in the military.  About 13.4% of all American males have served. About 1.4% of American females are veterans.  Some of those vets served only a few years. Some like me served nearly their entire adult life. Like me, some served honorably and retired, some served only a few years, and some were tossed out for various offenses or medical reasons or just for being shitty soldiers.  Some like me loved the military, some hated every single goddamned terrible minute of it.  Some like me volunteered, some were conscripted against their will. Like me, some served in war, and like me some served in peace. Some drove trucks, some pushed papers, some washed dishes, some pulled triggers.  Some came home whole and some didn’t.

But no matter how you break it down, veterans are less than 8% of the total US population. 

We don’t own the flag. We don’t own the song. Those symbols represent all Americans, vet and non-vet alike. 

And this is by intent.

The people who designed this country made the military subordinate to the elected civilian leadership for a reason.

They put the military under control of a civilian president for a reason and made it answerable to the people.

And when the Framers wrote the Constitution, they purposely did not require military experience from those elected to office.

Why?

Because we are not Spartans.

We are not Romans. We are not Nazis. We are not some warrior culture bent to conquest that puts military service on a pedestal to be worshiped.

We’re Americans.

We’re supposed to be the good guys.

We’re supposed to fight only when we have to, out of dire necessity and because there are no other options and not for some goddamned glorious spectacle.

That’s who we’re supposed to be.

America isn’t just veterans. Veterans might have defended this country, but without the other 92% of the population there wouldn’t be an America to defend. America is veterans, but it’s also everybody else, bricklayers and dishwashers and road builders and firefighters and cops and engineers and scientists and doctors and teachers and students and librarians, rich and poor, young and old, hale and infirm, black, brown, white, yellow, red, straight, gay, Christian, Muslim, Jew, atheist, short and tall, male and female, immigrant and natural-born, and whatever other variation you care to name.

That flag, that anthem, represents all of those people and all of their history.

And while a lot of that history is pretty spectacular, a lot of it isn’t. A lot of it is spattered in blood and begrimed with violence.

And while America itself is a pretty great place to be – despite what some politicians want you to believe – we’re far from perfect and there’s still a great deal of work to be done. Those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it in endless cycle. The Founders knew this and they didn’t just crap out a finished product and sit back on their asses expecting it to work for everybody for all time. The idea was a more perfect nation, not a perfect one. They did the best they could with what they had. They knew it wasn’t finished so they installed mechanisms into the fabric of our country that would allow for update and refinement – see Amendments to the Constitution et al.

We’re still working on that.

America clunks along pretty well for a lot of us. But not for everybody. Not yet. And because of that history and because we are human and because we each have the freedom to see the world as we will, the process of making America work for all of us is messy and fraught with endless setbacks. And it will never be done, it’s an ongoing job so long as time passes and the nation endures.

And that means the flag, the anthem, represent different things to different Americans – and some of you are just going to have to get used to that idea.

 

Next, let’s talk about the oath.

The oath all military members swear.

Enlisted personnel swear the following oath:

"I, (state your full name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."

Officers take a similar oath with some crucial differences:

“I, (state your full name), having been appointed an officer in the (service branch) of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of (rank) do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter. So help me God."

Enlisted personnel can be drafted against their will, which means they might take the oath with more than a bit of mental reservation. A lot of conscripted guys going off to Vietnam had serious reservations regarding their enlistment. Don’t take my word for it, ask them.

Officers on the other hand can’t be drafted.

An officer must take the oath freely and without reservation – under penalty of law. If it turns out you, as an officer, are unable to well and faithfully execute the duties of your office because you have mental reservations which you kept concealed at the time of your oath, then depending on the circumstances you’re likely to face resigning your commission or sitting in front of a court martial on your way to prison.

I took both of these oaths. First as an enlisted man and later as a commissioned officer. As the latter I administered the oath to others many, many times.  The one thing both of those oaths have in common is this part: I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.

We swear our oath, our lives, to the Constitution.

Not the flag.

Not the anthem.

Not to the president.

Not to congress.

Not to the citizens.

Not to a political party or ideology.

Not to a race.

Not to a religion.

We swear our oath to the Constitution.

But what does that mean? That we swear to give our lives for some raggedy old piece of paper? Is it the sacred paper itself that commands our allegiance? Some old piece of parchment, yellowed, handwritten in an archaic language, falling apart, stored away in a nitrogen-filled box somewhere in the National Archives. Is that it?

No?

What then?

Ah, I see. It’s not the paper -- whether it be that hoary old original document or one of those mass produced little booklets supposed patriots and politicians like to toss around. The paper doesn’t matter, it’s the ideas written on it. 

We swear our oath to an idea.

This idea: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

We swear we will bear true faith and allegiance, and give our lives if necessary, for that idea.

That idea was the foundation of the United States of America.

That idea was the very first words spoken by the new nation.

A war for that idea, tens of thousands dead for that idea, a decade of argument and bitter debate and endless compromise later and that idea became the Constitution of the United States.

That’s what we swear our oath to.

That’s why the Founders and the Framers made us subordinate to the civilian leadership – so that we would never forget that our place, our duty, is to defend the life, liberty, and happiness of all Americans. The ones we agree with and identify with and call brother and the ones we don’t. This is why Americans should be appalled and alarmed by the recent tendency of presidents to wrap themselves in military custom. The president is the civilian Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, not the General in Chief. The president shouldn’t be wearing military garb or rendering a salute. His civilian status should forcefully remind every American of their military’s subordinate role in our society every single day, especially it should remind the president and generals.

We are not Rome, and if we wish to remain so then this reminder is vital.

Okay, stop right there, Jim, I hear you say in that tone you use when you’re pretty sure you’ve got me. Back up. What about “enemies, foreign and domestic?” What about that?

What about it? We just covered that.

We, we military, we don’t get to decide who is and who is not an enemy, or who is and who is not an American – check the Constitution if you don’t believe me.

The military’s job is to defend the country, not rule it.

That’s not our job. And for a damned good reason.

It’s your job.  

We are a representative democracy, a constitutional republic, not a mob, not a military dictatorship. It is our elected civilian government’s job as constrained by the law and limited by the Constitution to decide who is and who is not an enemy. 

If you don’t like how they’re doing it, then elect better leaders. You’re the check, you’re the safety stop.  

Only about 50% of you vote. What kind of safety system only shows up 50% of the time?

If you want a better nation, you have to be better citizens.

You are who that flag, that anthem, represents.

 

And that takes us to your question:

AS A VETERAN, what do you think about Colin Kaepernick's decision to sit during the National Anthem?

That was your question. That’s how you phrased it. As a veteran.

If you’d asked me as a citizen, as a civilian, as a writer, as an artist, as a father, as a patriot, as a transplanted Michigander by way of Alaska living in the hellish fetid dinosaur infested swamps of the Florida Panhandle, I might have a different answer – then again I might not.

But that’s not what you asked.

You asked me to speak as a veteran, and as a veteran there is only one answer.

The very first thing I learned in the military is this: Respect is a two-way street.

If you want respect, true respect, sincere respect, then you have to give it.

If you want respect, you have to do the things necessary to earn it each and every single day. There are no short cuts and no exceptions. This is true of men and true of nations.

Respect cannot be compelled.

Respect cannot be bought.

Respect cannot be inherited.

Respect cannot be demanded at the muzzle of a gun or by beating it into somebody or by shaming them into it. Can not. You might get what you think is respect, but it's not. It's only the appearance of respect. It's fear, it's groveling, it's not respect. Far, far too many people both in and out of the military, people who should emphatically know better, do not understand this simple fact.

There is an enormous difference between fear and respect. One is slavery, the other is liberty.

Respect has to be earned.

Respect. Has. To. Be. Earned.

Respect has to be earned every day, by every word, by every action.

Respect has to be given freely.

It takes a lifetime of words and deeds to earn respect.

It takes only one careless word, one thoughtless action, to lose it.

You have to be worthy of respect. You have to live up to, or at least do your best to live up to, those high ideals – the ones America supposedly embodies, that shining city on the hill, that exceptional nation we talk about, yes, that self-evident truth that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

To earn respect you have to be fair. You have to have courage. You must embrace reason. You have to know when to hold the line and when to compromise. You have to take responsibility and be accountable for it.

You have to keep your word.

You have to give respect, true respect, to get it back.

There are no short cuts. None.

And any veteran worth the label should know this. All of it. If they don't, then likely they weren't much of a soldier to begin with and you can tell them I said so.

If Colin Kaepernick doesn't feel his country respects him enough for him to respect it in return, you can not make him respect it.

You can not make him respect it.

It is impossible.

 

If you try to force a man to respect you, you'll only make him respect you less.

 

With threats, by violence, by shame, you can maybe compel Kaepernick to stand up and put his hand over his heart and force him to be quiet. You might.

But that's not respect.

It's only the illusion of respect.

And, yes, you might force this man into the illusion of respect. We’ve done such things in the past, beaten the illusion of respect into people of color. So you might. Would you be satisfied then? Would that make you happy? Would that make you respect your nation, the one which forced a man to his knees, into the illusion of respect, a nation of little clockwork patriots all touching their forelock to the tyranny of ideology and pretending satisfaction and respect?

Is that what you want?

If that’s what matters to you, that illusion of respect, then you're not talking about freedom or liberty. You're not talking about the United States of America. Instead you're talking about every dictatorship from the Nazis to North Korea where people are lined up and made to salute with the muzzle of a gun pressed to the back of their necks.

That, that illusion of respect, is not why I wore a uniform.

That's not why I held up my right hand and swore the oath and put my life on the line for my country.

That’s not why I administered the oath to others.

That, that illusion of respect, is not why I am a veteran.

Not so a man should be forced to show respect he doesn't feel.

 

That's called slavery and I have no respect for that at all.

 

If Americans want this man to respect America, then first they must respect him.

I didn’t say you had to agree with him.

I didn’t say you had to agree with his methods.

Just as I don’t have to agree with those who exercise their Constitutional right to stand on the corner in this little Southern town waving their bibles and loudly damning me to their hell.

Just as I don’t have to agree with those who exercise their Constitutional right to daily scream NRA talking points at me and carry their semi-automatic dick-extenders into the grocery store.

Just as I don’t have to agree with the pundits and the press who exercise their Constitutional right to create paranoia and hate and falsehoods whole cloth.

Just as I don’t have to agree with either the Tea Party or the Occupy Movement, or the drooling idiot Sovereign Citizens who march on the White House periodically to demand the president be tried in a kangaroo court and hung from the nearest lamp-post, I don’t have to agree with any of them when they exercise their Constitutional rights to assemble.

As a citizen, I might disagree with one hell of a lot of the ways other Americans exercise their rights, I might have no respect for their actions or their words and I might even write about it here in less than respectful language.

But as a veteran, I do have to respect them – whether they are worthy of it in my opinion or not. Because I swore my oath to the ideal that they have every right to believe as they will. That, that right there, was the whole damned point of my service in the first place.

Here’s what that respect got me this week: 50,000 plus messages of respect in return.

See how that works?

The same is true of men and true of nations.

If America wants the world's respect, it must be worthy of respect.

America must be worthy of respect. Torture, rendition, indefinite detention, unarmed black men shot down in the street, poverty, inequality, voter suppression, racism, bigotry in every form, obstructionism, blind patriotism, none of those things are worthy of respect from anybody -- least of all an American.

That does not mean there aren’t many things to admire about America.

But those great things don’t give you a pass on the bad stuff. 

Our Founders expected us to fix those things, to keep making America better. Not great again, better. If you can’t see that, then perhaps those men had a higher opinion of us than we deserve.

Now, doesn’t all this also mean if Kaepernick himself wants respect, he must give it first? Give it to America? Be worthy of respect himself? Stand up, shut up, and put his hand over his heart before Old Glory?

No. It doesn't.

Respect doesn't work that way.

Power flows from positive to negative. Electricity flows from greater potential to lesser.

The United States isn't a person. It's a vast imperfect construct. It is a framework of law and order and civilization designed to protect the weak from the ruthless and after more than two centuries of revision and refinement it exists to provide in equal measure for all of us the opportunity for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That’s the exceptionalism we talk about, that right there.

If you want to be exceptional, then you have to be exceptional.

If being exceptional was easy, everybody would be exceptional.

Living up to the promise of the Declaration is hard. Living up to the ideals of the Constitution is hard. If it was easy, we wouldn’t need to have this conversation.

All the power rests with America. Just as it does in the military chain of command. And like that chain of command, like the electrical circuit described above, respect must flow from greater to lesser first before it can return.

It doesn’t matter if Colin Kaepernick is a well paid pampered athlete.

It doesn’t matter if Colin Kaepernick is the worst quarterback who ever fumbled a play, or the finest baller to ever set foot on the gridiron.

It doesn’t matter if Colin Kaepernick is an arrogant jerk of a human being or the nicest guy you ever met.

It doesn’t matter if you think Colin Kaepernick doesn’t do enough for his cause or if he spends his money in a fashion you don’t approve of.

It doesn’t matter if you respect him.

What matters is that he is an American and he has every right to speak his piece, to use his voice and his position to make what difference he can if he so desires – and yes, to suffer the consequences of his actions if necessary. That’s his choice.

That’s his right. You don’t have to respect it, but as a veteran I must. Not to do so would make a mockery of the very things I swore my life to defend.

And that’s what you asked me, as a veteran. Remember?

To you the National Anthem means one thing, to Kaepernick it means something else. We are all shaped and defined by our experiences and we see the world through our own eyes. That's freedom. That's liberty. The right to believe differently. The right to protest as you will. The right to demand better. The right to believe your country can be better – just as the Founders themselves did – that it can live up to its sacred ideals, and the right to loudly note that it has not so far. The right to use your voice, your actions, to bring attention to the things you believe in. The right to want more for others, for the people who are important to you, freedom, liberty, justice, equality, and respect.

A true veteran might not agree with Colin Kaepernick and in fact might adamantly disagree, but a true veteran would fight to the death to protect any American’s right to say what he believes.

In the week since I wrote the original post on Facebook I’ve received literally tens of thousands of responses. The overwhelming majority are positive, notes of encouragement and understanding, enthusiastic and even reluctant agreement.  It makes me proud to note many of those responses came from veterans, from cops, and from Americans who put their asses on line for their fellows every day without expectation of reward or thanks. They may not agree with Kaepernick, but they stand with him nonetheless as true Americans do. A number came from non-Americans, those on foreign shores who look to America with equal parts fear and fascination and wonder at that shining city on the hill and it makes me proud that they can still admire this nation for what it is supposed to represent.

But in that same week I’ve daily posted a roster of those who don’t get it. Those who wrote me, many who claim to be veterans, who called me traitor and called Kaepernick nigger and who have daily sent me death threats and seething hate simply because I spoke of honor and duty and respect. It is these people, these haters, these dimwitted goons, who prove with their own words the validity and necessity of Kaepernick’s protest and why I stand with him.

You asked me what I think as a veteran?

You have my answer and if you don't like what Kaepernick has to say, then prove him wrong.

Be the nation he can respect.

It's really just that simple.

181 comments:

  1. "Speak his piece," not "peace." But that's nearly immaterial. You're absolutely right in all of this. That old French guy Voltaire and his "defend your right to say it" business was right too. Well said, Chief.

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    1. Voltaire is misattributed for that quote.

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    2. I cried.. wow...XX

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    3. There is a picture going around of some the congress sitting down either during the pledge or the National Anthem. If anyone should be standing, it should be them.

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    4. The picture is of the NY State legislature a few years ago and it was also a protest.

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    5. It doesn't matter who sits and who stands. What matters is they have the right to do either.

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  2. I liked your original FB post a lot Jim. This is even better. My favorite NFL writer, former math teacher and very cool dude Mike Tanier had a great take on the situation that I think you and your readers would like.
    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2660382-nfl-needs-a-thoughtful-response-to-national-anthem-protests

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    1. Hmmm...read that. Personally, it struck me as a lot of 'how we can make them show respect without seeming to be dicatatorial about it'. The author wants obedience and 'no real protesting' in this manner, it seems to me. I totally do NOT agree with his 'coercion that pretends not to be coercion'.

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    2. Interesting way of twisting a straight forward essay on this subject so you can continue to believe, what is to me, a twisted anti-military thinking. Yet, what has sailed over *your* head is that your view is also protected.

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  3. The original was good,but this one is even better.

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  4. I appreciate so much of what you say. It resonates with me. I've argued similarly regarding pledging allegiance to the flag--it seems medieval, nationalist. We are truly about the idea. Thank you, sir, for your voice and reason.

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  5. I don't have words for how much I love this...because you used them all up. It's OK, I wouldn't have done them justice anyway. Thank you.

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  6. I suspect that most people are not aware of it but technically the US does not have a standing Army.

    "To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;

    To provide and maintain a navy;"

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  7. "speak your piece" . Not peace.

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    1. That is what you took away from this? A typo?

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    2. Anonymous: "That is what you took away from this? A typo?"
      Stuff like that annoys us writers. We want the work we produce for you to be perfect. And just so you know, Jim doesn't mind.

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  8. Perfection. With respect from a Navy Vet.

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  9. Very interesting insight. You give me hope.

    I'd suggest that being critical of injustices especially against the minority can only improve your country, not harm it.

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  10. Jim Wright, you are amazing. I, as a homeschooling mom (a choice you may or may not respect 😉) am assigning this essay to my two teenaged sons as required reading. Where the rubber of the Constitution meets the road!

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    1. I hope your lads like it. And maybe they'll read the rest of Jim's essays here too! :)

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  11. The core of the American ideal:

    "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

    Kaepernick, in his protest, questioned whether the United States is keeping the faith with that ideal.

    Dennis R. Dickens

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  12. Jim, you have my respect.

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  13. I greatly liked and approved of your first version, and this one is even better (I know, you don't need the approval of a perfect stranger, but you've been getting the unsolicited disapproval for a week now, I thought I'd try to be nice).

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  14. Thank you, Jim, for putting it so clearly. I am grateful that people like you serve in our military.

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  15. Beautifully said, Jim. One quibble: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." is from the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution. Now, I know you know this, but in the above context, some might interpret it as being part of the latter. Otherwise, great piece as usual. I will be sharing on FB. Thanks. Thom Purdy.

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    1. Agreed. It didn't read clearly, bc he was talking about the Constitution and then quoted the Declaration of Independence.

      Took me out of the essay a bit.
      Brigitte Todd.

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    2. Yes, that was the one quibble I had with the article as well. Other than that I loved it. And the point is not blunted by the misattribution, but it would have worked better with, "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

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    3. Seems to me you all figured it out from the context in fairly short order.

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    4. We did, and as usual, an excellent article. Like I said, just a quibble, a nitpick, a cat hair on my glasses. Loved all of the article, Matt Hood

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    5. I didn't think Jim was quoting the Constitution. I thought he was quoting the Declaration of Independence, the first formal statement of our goals as a nation, with the intent to clarify the ideals the Constitution is attempting to protect.

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  16. Jim, this should be required reading in all civics classes in American High Schools. Providing of course they still teach civics, it's been over 50 years since I attended High School. I am one of those Old white males that remember how my generation was going to make America better, somewhere through the years, we lost our way. Thanks for your service, and your words. You make a difference.

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  17. Well, you're not really my God, but I liked this one a lot. Thanks. Oh, and by the way, squirrel!

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  18. Amen and Hallelujah.

    I didn't serve in one of the Services, instead choosing to get a higher education (and then another past that) hoping to teach (and help out society in a different manner). I was fortunate, though, that the schools I attended emphasized respect and consideration for other viewpoints, up to sometimes having non-Christian faculty address the daily worship services.

    I'm wondering how we can get this country past the present difficulties back to a position where we can listen to, and respect, one another? I've gotten in heated discussions with people on both ends of the political spectrum this year, I've thrown my hands up in frustration trying to convince science deniers that there might be a shred of truth elsewhere.

    We need to learn how to WORK TOGETHER, not how to separate ourselves- by walls, by hijab or burkini*, by arbitrary labels like vaxer. Otherwise, I'm afraid that, in the long run, at best we'll be left with a stalemate of Right vs. Left (or Science vs. pseudo-Science, or Religion vs. Humanist, etc.)

    At worst, I'm afraid that the jokes about Texas seceding, or The South, or California, or The Left Coast, etc., come true. I don't want our great (yes, damnit, we ARE pretty great right now) country to become another Yugoslavia or Iraq, broken up into smaller, weaker, bickering parts of the world.

    * And I do respect your desire to express your religious faith, even if personally I find the manner in which you express it to be degrading to yourself! Just so long as you don't try forcing ME to follow your beliefs, we'll be fine!

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    1. I whole-heartedly agree! Believe what you want and allow me the space to do the same.

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  19. As always, I wish I could say as clearly and well, what you have been writing for years. Keep it up, your message is our only hope as a nation, and a people. "If you want a better Nation, Be a better Citizen!!" Most of your essays seem to come down to this point (even the ones (Especially!) I disagree with. It is the "Golden Rule" as applied to all societal and political actions. Thank you as always for your clarity and honesty. RESPECT.

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  20. This is your best essay ever. Thank you Jim. This is what it means to be a Veteran and one who loves their country - because of the premise that we can always do better.

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  21. Throughout the last few days, following this hoopala, all I could think of was what the intent of the flag waving, song singing, and heart cupping. Both sides of my family arrived here in the 1670's. They slowly made their way west generation after generation. Some served in the wars some didn't. All built and secured the country as they went. They strengthened their bloodline by marrying immigrants. They often were so poor an isolated, they shared handcarved bowls at mealtime. Children were left alone for days while a parent went for supplies or to take care of some kind of business. They were coarse and uneducated, they drank a lot of alcohol in lieu of questionable water. They buried a lot of children. History was oral, they taught each other to read. The only book was a bible which got passed on to the youngest son because that was what was left after got their "by rights" share of the farm and assets. They paced off their boundaries and figured out how to get along with their neighbors to survive. Often they would just pull up stakes and disappear. Americans are survivors and all are due some respect when they aren't the ones tearing down those that are reflective of the rights afforded us by the constitution. Respect comes to the full understanding of those rights and that all citizens have those rights.

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  22. When I was in 7th grade, I had a teacher at Waltonville Community Schools who demanded respect. I failed that demand and I was to be sent home.
    My mother, a feisty woman who could be mean-tempered if provoked, was called to come get me. She waltzed by me without even a glance...demanding of the principal, "Just what has she done to be sent home?"
    When it was explained that my 7th grade teacher had demanded his class perform for him "out of respect" for his position, my mother's reaction and subsequent statements caused the male principal to pale, then quickly try to shut the door so no one else could hear my mother's dressing down of this idea of demanded respect and my punishment for not showing such demanded respect. Her words were an awful lot like Jim Wright's words. She barred the door with her 4 foot 10 inch tall body and demanded to see this man who demanded such respect.
    For the principal to bring him to her. Now. Right that minute.
    "I want to see this man so deserving of respect that he can demand it and denounce my daughter for not giving it. I want to let him see, that I, too, will not comply. And. I want him to see I will NOT, not now, not ever, make my daughter comply to his demands for respect. For what will he demand of her next? Her virginity? I want to see this man. Now!"
    Obviously, I did not go home that day.
    And the male teacher was sent for as I was escorted back to class. I do not know what else my mother said after I was sent back to class but I do know that that male teacher came back to class red-faced, shamed, and embarrassed to apologize to his class for overstepping his bounds and trying to trample my and my classmate's boundaries.

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    1. Awesome!!! I like your mom!! And she has my respect.

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  23. You write so eloquently of all I feel and believe, but cannot put in to words. Thank you. (USAF 4yr 8mo wish I had stayed a bit longer)

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  24. Thank you, Sir. I still remember the Preamble to the Constitution: "We, the people of the United States of America, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America."

    This is the aspiration of this great nation. We fall down in many ways, but we only fail if we do not get up and try again to reach the goal.

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  25. Sure wish I could make it on your friends list.... I have been following you for something like over 6 months now, and you reflect my own mind and thinking around 90% of the time... occasionally I would have something of additional worth to contribute. Thank you for your regular input. Terry Kruser Federal Way, WA (formerly San Antonio, TX)

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    1. Same here. I want to play with the cool kids on Jim's friends' list too!
      --Kathy Johnson
      Lincoln Park, MI

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    2. Me Too!! It would be like winning the lottery :-) Semper Fi!

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    3. No worries ladies, just keep trying. Those of us who are his loyal minions know that sooner or later (usually sooner) he's going to boot someone, or a few someones out the airlock so you'll get your chance to come join in the minion parties!

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  26. Very well written and thoughtful essay. I shared it to my page with attribution (of course.)

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  27. Your writing is superb & your points so important. Thank you.

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  28. Thank you for stating so eloquently the thoughts and feelings that I have had running on auto-repeat in my head since this started and the talking heads have come out to slam Colin!! Most of all, thank you for your service for us. I truly appreciate it!!

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  29. As a fellow Vet, (80-84; no war and as a female volunteer), I deeply, deeply appreciate your words. You have spoken the thoughts I have held, somewhat subconsciously, about why I served. It was to get job training, true--but there has always been more than just that. I am 3rd generation military service, and proud to say that my son was the 4th generation (Navy, as a nuke).
    Lately, I have become despairing over the reality that the America I served, that ideal country, does not exist, probably never has. But I also HAVE to believe that we, its citizens, are better than that; in the long run, we will rise to the aspirations of the Framers to be better, each succeeding generation. It's been getting hard to maintain that belief...you know the political circus and its shenanigans; the fact that our media is not about news, but about entertainment.
    I have begun sharing this quote from Joseph Goebbels: "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State." And I see the lie, and the perpetuation of it, and I fear that the ignorant, hateful, and parochial people, those who have bought into the lie, might win.
    Your words reach a lot of people and I hope that they will agree, or change their minds to agree, with what you have written. If we cannot reach for the better and better state of being as a nation, we are doomed to violent revolution and a governing body that may not meet the hopes of those Founding Fathers.
    Thank you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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  30. As always, you say it so much better than I could. All these things roll about in my head but when it comes to getting them out in a cogent way, I fail. With you doing the hard work I can share a thoughtful, coherent essay and just add my little take when sharing. Thanks for doing the hard work so that I can share my thoughts.

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  31. As a veteran, and an American, I could not agree more. Those who think there's something wrong, unpatriotic even, when a man of color refuses to stand during the playing of a song that is gleeful about the burning of slaves who tried to free themselves, are the ones who make me ashamed of the current state of our country.

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  32. I am SO happy you've gotten more positive than negative feedback to your (excellent) post. Re: the hateful messages you've gotten, don't let the bastards get you down.

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  33. I served as a commissioned officer in the USAF from 1980 - 1992. Excellent essay, excellent points. I agree with you completely.

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  34. A while back when Westboro Baptist Church decided to bring their loathsome presence to the University of South Florida campus, people asked me as a veteran what I thought of their protests. I replied: "They do me and all of the other veterans a great honor."
    My friends looked at me with that "somebody forgot to take their meds" look.
    I told them that the First Amendment guarantees us freedom from government censorship.It does not guarantee us polite speech or even coherent speech for that matter. But it will be free. So when the WBC spouts their nonsense they do so because other people put on a uniform and picked up a weapon and defended their right to do so. Just like Colin Kaepernick.

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  35. I like it alot Jim.

    I wrote something a while back on this subject towards Vets in particular.
    https://nondoc.com/2016/07/26/progressive-vet-reckless-foreign-policy-poses-real-threat/

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  36. I thought the original post was spot on, but this is just... epic. I wish I could come up with something as equally eloquent to comment with, but I'm a bit overcome by your ability to so fully voice what I also have believed and defended for so many years.

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  37. Thank you for expanding your already well written commentary on this topic.
    If ever you are traveling through central California I hope you'll let me buy you a beer, or a coffee .. or whatever you prefer.

    Keep up the good fight!

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  38. Bravo....No one has said it better.

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  39. 100% on the mark. As a moderately conservative liberal, a retired police inspector, a business owner, a father and an American who is not always proud of what my country represents in the world these days, I thank you from the bottom of my heart!

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  40. Well done, as usual. I'm getting some northern Ontario, Canada friends of mine to follow your Facebook posts. Referenced you in my own newspaper column about this subject in the North Bay Nugget. I said it was on Stone Kettle a little prematurely though. Keep up the great work, it's inspiring, especially for us Canucks. nugget.ca/2016/08/31/anthem-patriotism-personal-decision

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  41. I’m not blowing smoke up your ass, but I would like to say – thanks for writing this, and writing it so well. My feeling about the matter was somewhat conflicted until you framed it in your perspective. Though I may think Collin Kaepernick could – maybe should have - have taken different steps to right the wrongs he is trying to bring attention to, he’s a young man and young men sometimes don’t know the best way to do things. I imagine he might do it differently now just a few weeks older.
    In any case, thanks for your rational and rightful writing. Every one of us has a right to be as wrong (or otherwise) as we wish. Thanks for being a guardian of that right.

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  42. Thank you! Blazing words all should read. Thank you for your seervice.

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  43. Excellent. Again. One edit, "every right to speak his peace..." I think you may have meant "piece".

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  44. Thanks so much for being a voice of reason in this screwed up time. Read you daily...

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  45. I teach "Introduction to American Government" at a state University. When I can, I try to point my students to events that provide context for what we are studying and I used Colin's decision to sit (then take a knee)ax context to think about the First Amendment. I am going to refer my class to this essay of yours to more fully flesh out the ideas in play. Thanks for that.

    On a related note, I have always believed we should be teaching our kids to say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Constitution and not the flag. It means so much more. Thanks, too, for making that point.

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  46. Excellent - as always. Keep up the great work! Keep the faith that we can and will "Make America Better."

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  47. Every time I think you've raised the bar as high as you can, you raise it further. I sit in awe of your breathtaking command of language.

    One small thing: "Just as I don’t have to agree with the pundits and the press who exercise their Constitutional right to create paranoia and hate and falsehoods whole cloth." ...should that be "out of whole cloth"?

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  48. Respect. You earned mine a long time ago. It continues to be strengthened by such powerful essays as this pair. Grateful.

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  49. Once again you typed the words that were in my heart. As a woman who is part of that 1.4% of veterans, as the wife of a retired Navy Diver, as a mother, as a daughter, as an AMERICAN!

    Thank you, Jim.

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  50. Wonderful post! You said, "It doesn’t matter if Colin Kaepernick is a well paid pampered athlete" and I think that is important. But it does matter. It matters in the sense that he has a platform because he is a successful athlete. I keep seeing posts where people grudgingly agree that, well okay, yes, he may have technically had a RIGHT to protest, but how dare he?? America "gave" him all this wealth! And here he is, this rich, spoiled rotten @#$%*.... and then there is usually some tirade about how he should go to another country and see how he likes it there. But honestly who would have cared if he were just some average person instead of a rich, successful, well-known athlete? If he were part of the stadium cleaning crew we wouldn't have noticed, we wouldn't be having this conversation. He had a platform and he decided to use it to bring attention to something he cares about.

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  51. I've enjoyed your stuff for a few years now, it's always been spot on, on the money, or so damned close that it didn't matter the degree.

    This though, in my opinion, is the best yet. I cannot foresee, (unfortunately), you ever being more spot on, on target. You ZERO'd this one Sir. Dead Center, Perfect.
    Thank you very much.

    PS, if ya get tired of the swamps, there are a few places in Calif. that used to be swamps,.... just saying.. :)

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  52. There should be something between You Are My God and I Cried. ;) I'm not real comfortable telling someone he's my god, as I'm an atheist. Heh. But I checked it anyway, because I did want to tell you I liked the post. I like to think I'm pretty smart and sort of savvy, but I have a feeling you'd run rings around me during a discussion over a fine dinner, especially if liquor was involved.

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  53. I am one of the many that only found you recently, due to your original essay on this subject.

    I love the fact that I feel like you're sitting in the room with me talking about this. I can hear the passion and the conviction, and you speak so eloquently, you move me every time I read one of your essays.

    I, too, thought the original Facebook essay was spot on, but, this? Just, Wow! Thank you for writing it. Thank you for your service. Thank you for doing what you do.

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  54. Really it's very simple, to live in a free country you have put up with other people's bullshit, just like they have to put up with yours. Thanks for another great article, Jim you're always spot on.

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  55. Thank you, Chief.

    Thank you for this "extended cut" of your original post. As with the first post, I'll be directing everyone that has any question or doubt about this situation, or any like it, to this one as well. It is completely unsurprising to me that your words on this subject have gone viral, as they are as damn near to perfection as one can get. I would even go so far as to say that this post is something that, in my view, everyone needs to read.

    The entire Nation would benefit from understanding what you've written. I know that I am grateful for, and deeply appreciate, every word of it.

    Again, thank you, Chief.

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  56. I so much admire your work. You make a stand and your respect for all so easily commands respect back. Thank you for speaking out with such insight. If only you could reach everyone and if only they would listen.

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  57. Thank you so much Jim! This needs to be required reading for everyone in this country! If Colin Kaepernick accomplishes nothing else, he has at least shown how many people believe our freedom and rights should be limited by their own biases. I have been shocked by how many people, in fact. Reading your essay gives me hope!

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  58. I'm not a veteran, but I'm with ya all the way. Personally I think CK is a world class POS, due to his absurd political views and his assiine belief that HRC should be in jail. I have no tolerance for that level of self inflicted stupidity. I wouldn't want him on my favorite football team. Not because of his ideals but that he woukdn't be a good fit with my Broncos. I despised Peyton Mannings politcal leanings, but was thrilled he was on my team.

    This National Anthem controversy is only a controversy because of the drooling, slack jawed knuckle draggers who made it so. To me it's a non-issue and I support Colin Kaepernick in this 100%.

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  59. As an Honorably Discharged enlisted member of the USAF (1952), I stand completely with your sentiments. We have entirely too many "faux patriots" today who don't understand the Bill of Rights, much less the subtleties of why some of us voluntarily serve our country in our youth, and live with that pride for the rest of our lives. America is still imperfect; I encourage all of us to work together to improve that for ALL citizens. Merely standing during the National Anthem (but, don't peek at the third verse!) is not patriotism, it is mere habit.

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  60. Love your writing, my friend. I read and share everything you write. You're a voice of intelligence and reason in an increasingly stupid and ignorant country.
    One small grammatical note, only because you ask:
    "At the moment, there are around 1.4 million people (not all of *whom* are Americans) serving in the US armed forces."

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  61. Awesome. Even better than the first one.

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  62. As someone whose family has a long history of military service, and whose father was a Navy CPO who retired in '59, your "voice" is most refreshing and even reassuring to me. And having grown up in Pensacola (EHS Class of '67) it is especially great hearing such a voice with such an impact coming from back home. After having lived and worked in Vienna, Austria from Jan of '90 until June of '12, I'm now fully retired and living in Wiener Neustadt; just S of Vienna. I don't get back very often and try staying in touch with family and old friends via FB. And an awful lot of what I have been experiencing on there is causing me a lot of concern about things back home; to say the least about the most. If you ever have need for any "on the ground" info about the political, financial, economic, or even social situation in the EU, give me a holler; be glad to do all I can to help in any way I can. (Seldon Higgins on FB) For 24 years, I was a communication skills trainer and consultant. And, I still have some damn good contacts. And, if you're ever over this way, be my pleasure to invite you for a dinner or lunch and more than a few drinks in Vienna. You're a good man; damn good man, and you are delivering your message with good impact and making a difference. And that's really challenging and even daunting anymore. I hear you. You do a great job dealing with your haters; very challenging. I know; had a blog from around '03-'07 and did a lot of sharing and guest authoring with a dear bud back in NOLA, Ashley Morris. Another "unique" and powerful voice with an impact. And in today's landscape of everything being canned for Twitter, FB, and other SM, and even worse: obnoxious screeching out of ideological straitjackets with their straps all yanked that notch too damn tight, it is rare indeed to come across someone willing to put the time-effort into communicating on a more professional, powerful, and effective level. Hat tip to you, sir. And keep hammering 'em. Seldon Higgins

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  63. Thank you Jim. Absolutely outstanding.

    Pete Curtin, CPT (USAR)

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  64. If more Americans were, like Khizr Khn, father of slain Moslem soldier, who challenged Trump to read the Constition, there would be more understanding of your position and its implication, Jim. I do and I count myself as a veteran proud to have volunteered along with my wife and her father ( CB in WWII). It is a tempest in a teapot of course. But it points up some interesting lessons in citizenship. When I am on the base and the colors are lowered I get out of the car. I know why I get out the car and render honors. It is a habit that I feel good about. If CK feels otherwise,that is no disgrace, but as Tevye says in the musical, " no great honor either." I speak only for me.

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  65. I think you're the greatest. Welcome to the Redneck Riviera. There are no liberals here, except you and me and my husband and presumably your wife.

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  66. Superb! That's all I have to say.

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  67. Bravo, Jim!! Just the other day, a certain politician declared that in his administration, patriotism will be a required subject in US schools, leaving us to fearfully ponder just what that curriculum under that leadership would look like. Instead, I nominate your thoughtful essay to be required study in every school in this nation. Perhaps then, we can become the nation the Founding Fathers envisioned.

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  68. Excellent post. If those that are sending you hate mail were capable of reading this with an open mind I believe your posting might have a dramatic effect ... I can dream.

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  69. As a Marine Veteran and an American...this has to be the best written essay on the subject I have read...ever. He covered almost all aspects of this issue, as an African American and Hispanic he said exactly how I was feeling. I have followed Chief Warrant officer Wright for some time now on Facebook (even tried getting the coveted spot of being able to comment with little success). But his grasp of this situation is by far the most articulated essay on this issue. This is much more than a drop mic piece of writing. Its a true testament of a fellow brother in arms who truly gets it.

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  70. Thank you for putting this issue into perspective. Thank you for shining a very bright light on the inadequacies of so many to understand what the Constitution stands for and what should be the reason any person volunteers for military service.
    For my part, I respect Kaepernick far more for standing his ground and exercising his right to protest in a peaceful manor, than I do the haters that show no respect for anyone that doesn't share their tilted ideology. Those people who hurl invective's, never thinking that many of their own actions are reprehensible to others, but are tolerated because we all share the same rights guaranteed us, both in the Constitution's 1st Amendment and spelled out in The Bill of Rights.
    Keep writing like this and I'll keep donating.

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  71. Thank you for this. As often happens when I read one of your essays, I think of my late husband, and how much (and how vehemently) he would be agreeing!

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  72. This should be required reading in every single high school in the country. Thank you.

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  73. Thank you, sir.

    And I hope you rode out the storm okay.

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  74. The way you phrased the ending of your article begs the question - and I am being sincere here - you say you stand with Kaepernick. But, um, Kaepernick is SITTING.... is it your intent to also sit with Kaepernick in national anthem situations? Serious question.

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    1. That's not what "begs the question" means.

      But I understand your question. I never use words by accident. I said "stand" on purpose and my meaning should be obvious from the context -- I just spent 4200 words explaining it.

      Me? Personally? As a citizen, I will always stand for the National Anthem. As a veteran and the son of a veteran I will always render proper honors to the flag of the United States -- for my own reasons, not for yours or anybody else's.

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  75. Excellent piece. I have been truly conflicted on this issue. I was raised in a military family and respect for the flag and the National Anthem, among other things, were second nature to us. If you were walking across base and Taps sounded, as the flag was being lowered, you stopped and waited. It has pained me for many years, when at a sporting event for instance, the lack of respect when the anthem is played. As you said, people are running around, texting, talking, yelling, etc. Parents are not teaching their children by instruction or example. I'm sure a lot of those squawking the loudest about this incident are among the biggest offenders. So yes, it is clearly his right to protest in this fashion, many have laid down their lives for that right. Do I agree with his choice? Not necessarily. I would hope one could find another constructive and peaceful avenue to address the issue. Maybe it's just that I grew up in a different world. I'm old and we were taught respect, not just for the anthem or the flag, but for other people, especially our elders, for our country and for our leaders. For instance the disrespect shown this President. You don't have to like him, you don't have to agree with his politics, but the office of President of the United States of America deserves respect! So to me, I guess it's a matter of respect, and I am just as offended by the dude texting, or in the beer line, as I am about the QB using it as an avenue of protest.

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    1. Good points! My husband remarked the other day "what is the point and purpose of playing the anthem before sporting events??" Thoughts?

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    2. Agreeing with many of your points, but I would add that playing the anthem at the start of every sporting event has cheapened it, making it a faux display of patriotism and making it easier for people to view it something less than it should be. If you want the anthem to evoke our history, goals and ideals perhaps it would be better if its playing were reserved for occasions that have patriotic content, sporting events (with the debatable exception of the Olympics) usually don't.

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  76. Thank you! Your beautiful post made me cry every time I reread it. You are my favorite blogger and often the light that brings me up from the depths of despair for our country. I want to be you in my next life.

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  77. I have read your wonderfully insightful posts for awhile now. As a veteran I felt my heart swell as I read this! Bravo!!! Just one small quibble. After nearly four years of exemplary service, I was discharged...my "offense"...that I am gay.

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  78. I'm delighted to see you expand on this theme. I've shared your other FB post with many people, particularly the camp that has worked itself into a frenzy over Kaepernick's not standing for the national anthem and I've silenced at least two people with my demand that they specify exactly what America has done that consistently and on a daily basis demonstrates it's respect for black and minority citizens. I don't expect to get answer, but it sure shuts them up.

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  79. Spot on! Thank you for your well reasoned essay on this.

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  80. I've been trying to say this for so long. You have a talented pen there, Chief. Good job.

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  81. I've been reading you for several months. I read this right after having reading Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's complementary column addressing the same event as prompted your essay. I write a lot, too. It's my way of clarifying my ideas and sometimes inadvertently discovering what I really think . . . or would like to. This essay was stunning to me. Clear, direct powerful, a beacon of hope. As so many others of the commenters I find it so easy to feel wracked with pessimism and anguish over the constant struggle. And it's not just because I live in Maine where currently we suffer the indignities and live with the embarrassment of a governor whose racially tainted and potty-mouth public discourse provides only examples of how wide the gap between reality and our aspirations for our common life together as we seek to govern ourselves responsibly, constructively. Retired for twenty years now, I feel as if I work harder now than I did when I was employed. I am so desperately worried about the kind of community and environment I will be leaving for my granddaughters. All I feel I can contribute is every possible effort of which I am capable to assist in that ongoing impetus to improvement and better realization of the ideals that have guided the nation for well over 200 years. My parents were French and Dutch; I am therefore first generation, but a combination of the familial exposure to their aspirations and a superb public education equipped me as good as they possible could for what feels now like an olympian challenge. Any day now I turn eighty (actually, my protoplasm's already there!). I will do what I can, but this essay is as fine an expression as to why as I could imagine. Thank you.

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  82. Brilliant. Thank you for your grown-up voice of reason. (Figuring out how to be your "friend" on facebook is now on my bucket list.)

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  83. I only KNOW one thing. NEVER, EVER question a Chief Warrant Officer! EVER! Perhaps on occasion, IF you have AT LEAST 3 stripes on your sleeve. MAYBE THEN. MAYBE.

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  84. Thank you for putting my thoughts into words, with the weight of your service behind them.

    As a military family member, I believe in every fiber of my being what you have written.

    Often, though, because we've not actually worn the uniform, our opinions and experiences are dismissed.

    Thank you for this essay. It is one of the best I've read in my 48 years on this planet.

    Semper Fi, Sir

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  85. Bravo yet again-you make me proud to be an American-and there are precious few things that make me feel that way today. I hate what this country has become-what some people want to turn it into, at least. We are about the same age, and where I grew up, dissent and questioning were not only approved of, but expected if we were to be considered fully participating citizens in this country. Far too many people prefer to sit on the sidelines and bitch and whine and denigrate those who do speak out. THANK YOU for being an intelligent and thoughtful voice in the middle of a bunch of noise

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  86. I'm a brand new follower -- like many, I learned of you via George Takei's Facebook page. Just a note of appreciation and respect. We can all have our differences, but we need to stop going out of our way to find things to be offended by. You sir are a patriot of the highest order. Thank you for your words and your service.

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  87. Guess I just want to jump on the bandwagon and thank you for saying so eloquently, but plainly, what I've been pushing for a long time. I openly opposed the Viet Nam war right along with many senior NCOs, not usually considered the most liberal folks. I was Regular Army, third generation service, with my son serving in the Navy Gulf War. I'm an active and questioning Christian who has no trouble with anyone else's religion, figuring we've all got a little bit different piece of the same action. Those who have no religion? Either they're right or if they're not, they'll be taken care of, anyway. This is what being an American means to me. Presidents wrongly saluting, worshiping flags and anthems are distractions from what needs to be done. Yup, we don't need to make America great again. You said it, we need to keep making it better. And we have to keep earning respect or lose it.

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  88. You're a hell of a good writer Jim.I thought the first essay on this subject was good,but you've just surpassed that.As a UK citizen,I'm constantly learning about our differences and I have to admit when the news of this footballers apparent disrespect hit our headlines,I had reservations about the time and place for his protest.There was a sharp intake of breath.That was until I read your take on it and realised that ,having a platform and a famous face,it was his duty to bring the injustices he sees to public attention.That he was not just entitled to, but honour-bound to make a difference and he was right to stand up (or sit down) for his beliefs.Thank you for making me realise what is more important.That is, if this footballer and his friends don't feel America respects them because of the colour of their skin,then standing for the flag and the anthem is the ultimate hypocrisy.
    X Beth Wales.

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  89. Thank you. This may have been said, but I always think of the constitution as that which 'constitutes' the nation. As such, it is malleable and able to include ideas not absolutely articulated by the writers. That is the beauty of a true constitution.

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  90. "If Americans want this man to respect America, then first they must respect him." I know just what you mean, but this use of America and Americans is imprecise and a bit sloppy. It is a common usage when what is meant is United States or citizens of the United States. No argument with the position stated. I agree wholeheartedly.

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  91. Jim, thanks for putting your spin on this. I wholeheartedly agree. As a retired AF Chief Master Sergeant, it would have been an honor to serve with you or under you.

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  92. Jim: Let me thank you from the bottom of my heart for reminding me what America stands for. I was born and raised in a foreign country, and for years I dreamt of living in a country where your rights were important, where you counted. I had to endure a savage dictatorship (and even though ironically it was supported by the US, in order to protect the country from the Soviets) where you could not oppose the government otherwise they will ‘pick you up’ and mysteriously disappear. I grew up with “Be careful what you say” or “Be careful of your friends”, or “Don’t get involved”, or even “He (or she – at least they were equal opportunity monsters) may have done something”. But I was also raised to stand up for my fellow brother, to defend my and my neighbor’s rights. I had the chance to serve in the Air Force and I was taught comradery and spirit-de-corps. But then I had the chance to come to America and fulfill that dream. And yes, I love the opportunities I have and I recognize that I had opportunities that I may not have had anywhere else. But… I also recognize its defects. I recognize that the American government failed to its word when they supported corrupt governments, or when it was in the national security interest to depose a democratically elected government so American companies could have their interests protected. I recognize that America still has a debt with its populace to make it (as you mentioned in your post, citing the preamble of the Constitution, “a more perfect union.” I took a similar oath as you have done ("I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God."), so I understand clearly where you are coming from. I didn’t have the privilege to born in this land; I have to earn the privilege. And though I could not wear the uniform (they told me that I was old), I served this nation for almost 20 years (I still serve it today, but in a different capacity). And I also stand by your side, we may agree or not with Mr. Kaepernick, but he has all the right to express his opinion. Not allowing him to do it is spitting on the almost 3 million casualties of war we had since the War of Independence or spitting on the face of 310 million inhabitants we have in this country. Unfortunately, Jim, people take the liberties we have for granted. Those of us who grew up without them know perfectly well the value of liberty.

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  93. Thank you! You have stated so well exactly how I feel.

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  94. I figured it out as Jeanne and the rest did. And it's the correct progression, from the "first words" of the Declaration, to the Preamble and the rest of the Constitution. I started following your posts on FB a few weeks ago Jim, and I haven't been disappointed yet. This is the best statement about what the Constitution means that I have read in a long, long time - possibly ever. Keep up the good work.

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    1. I agree Jim. It is a powerful essay and should be read by every American.

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  95. I loved your first post.

    This is better.

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  96. Okay, I've tried twice to post a comment on here with my wordpress log on, but it seems to no avail. So, I'm going to try with my Google log on. Wish me luck.
    Oh, and I hope this is not the third comment to show up from me. If it is, well, sorry.

    Anyway, damn fine extended version of your post. It truly brought tears to my eyes as I was reading it.
    Also, wanted to let you know that I am excerpting some of it. Not the first time I've done a link to your blog from mine. But I
    I've no ads, so I'm not making money from it. Actually, my blog takes money from me.

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  97. Excellent as always! I just do not understand why people don't get it. Freedom and liberty include the freedom and liberty to peacefully protest or there is no freedom and liberty.

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  98. Amazing essay. Thank you.

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  99. Thank you so much for this. I have read your blog for some time now and you just always get it right. I'm married to a "veteran" (there are reasons for the quotation marks) who wants to destroy people like Kaepernick. Really, I guess, he would destroy me as well because I cannot agree with his hateful point of view. This is my hell. But it isn't as bad as some. I manage but some cannot. I'm glad there are brave people - in and out of the military - trying to make things right. I believe you are one. Thank you for a place to go to read some sense.

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  100. No one is doing this better. Thank you.

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  101. Best. Essay. EVER!!**

    (** = Until the next time when you write something that is even more incredible and amazing. Which I have no doubt you will do. You sir, have my eternal respect all-around.)

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  102. Thank you for writing this. It is brilliantly stated. I loved the first post, and shared it on several platforms. This is better. (And I've shared it across several platforms, and sent it to relatives who don't do FB.) You are one of my favorite writers. I've followed you on FB for quite awhile, and here for several years. I don't comment a lot, but I wanted you to know how much I appreciated the brilliant, well-reasoned clarity of this piece, and your patience and passion in crafting it. I send ten dollars a month in support. It hardly seems enough as a way to say "Thank you," so I have to post and say it this time: Thank you.

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  103. When I stayed in the USA for 6 months in 1975, one time I was playing the piano at a relative's house party in Virginia - just tinkling in the background, no one much listening, everyone talking..

    I went through this songbook on the music stand and played a few I knew - then came to "Star Spangled Banner", saw the bass descent and chord sequence and thought -"oh that looks quite nice" so started playing it - Half thinking of Jimi Hendrix's version, I jazzed it up ever so slightly...but then stopped.
    I noticed the room had gone quiet and turned around from the piano (which was against a wall) and saw that everyone was standing with their hands across their chests.
    This scared the bejayzus out of me.

    The national anthem of the UK is never, NEVER, taken that seriously - and for me, the fierce regard for this and the flag is one of the weakest things about the America I love.

    If you travel abroad a lot, as I used to, you meet a wonderful range of people. The nicest thing is finding the common humanity and humour that spans the globe...
    and with climate change OFFICIALLY (the CIA agree on top 3) the biggest threat to ALL of us, way more than terrorism, - the whole idea of patriotism that turns the world into an "us and them" cycle of abuse and mistrust, is anathema to me.

    So I get the essay, and applaud the element that is about what freedom and respect really mean - I also like the core of your constitution...
    but I sure as hell wish people would ease up on this flag saluting, anthem protecting misguided notion of what the good things in life really are.

    Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is being bombed to Hell in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Palestine and elsewhere - and a lot of that is down to oil & resource greed that smothers itself in "American values".
    That I find so sad.
    Because the people (with the exception of those who support Trump whom appear to be unreachable in terms of intelligent debate) I know in the USA are actually delightful, friendly and more open to love and happiness than many other national groupings.
    I'd love the guns to disappear but would be even more delighted to visit again (7th time) if the anthem and flag worshipping became a thing of the past.
    best of luck with all that.

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    1. I like the sentiment, but also see what I feel is a missing of others feelings, and a slight disregard for those feelings. Heaven forbid, we are in a PC society. Every offense seems to get blown out of proportion. I think there is a difference between a feeling of respect and the concept of "worshiping". They aren't the same. My father served in the Pacific for 3+ years - helping defend this nation. He instilled in me, that ALL MEN - have the rights he was fighting for. I have taken it to heart. But also in reflection, while I understand the percentages, I see the sacrifice, of mind, spirit and body. Every life is of terrific value (this is NOT an abortion comment). In fact, so terrific a value that my heart aches with the news feeds seen daily. I have NO PROBLEM with defending each individual's rights to express themselves. But I also have that same right to show displeasure. Note, I said displeasure, not demonization. That "symbol", represents, lives lost for me. People stand under the flag, fall under the flag, and are buried under the flag, for the IDEAL for which it stands. TO ME, it is not just a few sown strips of cloth, just flapping in the breeze. It is a representation. Something I respect, not worship. Note, If people want to express a counter feeling to that, that is their right. But please - do not state, the my feelings are any more, or less important. I have a right to them, and to speak out as well.

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    2. "That "symbol", represents, lives lost for me."

      That "symbol" represents so many things to so many people, which is the point Jim makes. I wish we would spend much more time and emotion on making sure every single person in this country has a quality of life, justice and liberty that would make them want to be proud of anthem, flag, and country.

      Thank you, Jim. One of your best.

      bd

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    3. bd - That is only ONE of the things it means to me. That was NOT an exhaustive list. I agree, this country has many societal ills that need to be addressed. Note; I had no problem with Kaepernicks right to express. I stated as such. But I also have a right to my feelings, my interpretations, my beliefs. I simply stated what the flag means TO ME. I did not demand anyone else think the way I do. It is a part of who I am. The way you put it, it appears that my feelings are not in line with yours, and you seem offended by it, because I spend "too much time on it". Really? I don't dwell, on the flag. My formative years, ingrained this feeling, this ideal, this belief. I understand, and agree there are ills. But because I expressed my beliefs, you seem to judge (not knowing me), that I spend my time poorly...... My expression does not meet your standard because you "think" I am "wrapped up in it" (to paraphrase your time and emotion comment). My beliefs, are not MORE, AND, no LESS than others speaking here. So the symbol doesn't mean the same to you. That is your right. But don't belittle my interpretation, because it doesn't match yours.

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  104. From a used up soldier to a used up sailor I say BZ, and a quote(since many commenters use them too)
    "You use yer mouth purttier than a $10 whore"

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  105. Thank you. It's not so hard to understand really.

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  106. Donald G. SwarbrickSeptember 3, 2016 at 7:31 AM

    Jim - Could you please immediately file the necessary paperwork to get your name included on the presidential election ballots?
    I'm not at all concerned about what your policies or agenda might
    be... I'd just love to witness you deliver the next 4 or 8
    "State of The Union" addresses!!

    Thanks for another outstanding, kick-ass essay!

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  107. Nailed it and sealed it with a weld.

    Thanks Jim.

    Duckworth/Wright 2020

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  108. Jim, this is one of your best essays, but I think that your qualifier of "as a veteran" limits the field. As an American the same values hold true and anyone who has ever taken an oath to uphold the Constitution whether a service member, an elected official, a scout, a naturalized citizen, a member of any organization that asks for the pledge or even as a private individual who swears this even only unto him/herself.

    This essay should be the foundation of resurrected civics classes (sadly dismissed from school curricula), if that were done perhaps we wouldn't be faced with a Donald Trump as a presidential candidate.

    I did not serve in the military, in fact I was vehemently opposed to the Vietnam war and, thanks to college deferments was able to avoid it. TO pay back what I could I spent several days a week going to draft boards counselling on various methods to avoid the draft (perhaps somewhat out of guilt for my privileged position, but also because I felt it was my patriotic duty to not only speak out but act as I could). I suffered fights (I was not a pacifist), mud slinging (figurative and literal) attempted cigarette burns (was more fortunate than some of my cohorts) and more. But one thing I never did was disrespect those who served whether conscript or volunteer. The same attitude was rue of most of the people I worked with.

    So I believe that what you've written here is true and vital to the maintain and improve the fabric of our society, I think it should be extended as a challenge and obligation to everyone who would call themselves Patriot.

    Thanks for what you do here.

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    1. He was asked "as a veteran", so that is how he responded :)

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  109. "We’re supposed to be the good guys. "
    I'm not sure why, but this is the line that brought actual tears to my eyes. I know I tend toward a cynical and pessimistic view of this country over the last couple years. Watching the dumb just get dumber is exhausting sometimes, but that one line really hit me. What happened to us being the good guys? The ideals many of us who follow you or are your minions seem to share are sorely lacking most everywhere else. "News" and other posts have a habit of just making me angry/sad/fed up with the whole mess, but your words always remind me that without hope we will NEVER be a better nation. That it's up to us to continue the fight to BE the good guys.
    Thank you, as always, for your bit of sunlight shot into the darkness.

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  110. I had a couple of people on my list who were all bent out of shape over Mr. Kaepernick's protest, but I too feel that what he did he had a right to do. He wasn't hurting anyone, he wasn't even inconveniencing anyone. A coworker even asked my thoughts on it, and my own response was way less eloquent but amounted to "people died for his right to express himself and it's in the Constitution. Don't have to like it, but people died defending that right". It was with much glee however that I crossposted your original FB post. And I agree this one was even better but the first one certainly got the point across well. Thank you.

    P.s. Watch out for those "dinosaurs", I grew up in Florida and only recently discovered they can climb trees. Watch out for the "state bird" too and if you have not yet met the palmetto bug...(can't miss this critter, hug roach with wings), all I can say is, whatever you do, don't miss. They try to kill you back. Good luck!

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  111. Thank you for articulating what many of us think and feel. I just wish there was some way to tattoo this essay onto the brain cells of those amongst us, who would benefit from reading your essay over, and over again.

    thank you once again for sharing your thoughts.

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  112. Thanks for this, Jim! I read your original FB post and thought it was brilliant. Adding the civics lesson for the educationally deprived was genius. I'm glad to know that someone has the juevos to stand up to the trolls. The trolls get all of the press for their inflammatory nature. The voice of reason doesn't get ratings or sell papers. Please keep shining the light on this miasma of a political campaign and the crap that goes with it!

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  113. I've been watching this from afar, as I have said before I'm a Canadian- and am truly baffled by the hateful responses brought about by this man's action.
    I am the Aunt, cousin, sister, daughter, granddaughter and great grand daughter of army personnel from the world over. Oh wait and niece too.
    They fought for more than one country, but they never ever said they were fighting for a flag, they were fighting for a nation. A nation that gave people the freedom to express themselves. (again more than one nation involved here)
    I know that if I so choose I can sit, or stand for my anthem. Will people disagree?? Yup, some might even tell me they do, not many though.
    My family didn't fight for a piece of cloth, they fought for freedoms, not only mine but all the people.

    If people think he is wrong, cool, but the stuff I see all over is, well, disturbing to say the least.
    He is not the first person to protest, quietly, nor will he be the last, or at least I hope he isn't.

    I sent people to your FB page to read the original posting, many of them U.S. citizens and told them once they read that and understood it we could have a reasonable discussion.
    You changed the minds of people who were nearly rabid in their comments about someone sitting down. Some of course didn't agree with you, but that is their choice.
    I keep coming back here because you are so real, and don't give a rat's patoot if someone disagrees with you, you are awesomely confident and I like that.

    One last thing....and this is very tongue in cheek....are you sure you family wasn't Canadian at some point?? Cussing but still polite (for the most part lol)it's kind of our trademark lol ;)

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  114. Bravo Zulu, sir.

    (ex-ET1/SS, 1982-1989)

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  115. As always, well reasoned and well stated. I worked for some good CWOs in my 20 years, but none of them wrote this well and, I dare say, most likely didn't think this clearly either...

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  116. This means much to me, Sir. Thank you for your clear thoughts. Sometimes I wish I could beat this into the heads of those who just want to leave it all to the bankers, the industry leaders, and the Pentagon and just watch television to see what happens.

    Respectfully,
    Larry A. Scott

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  117. Thank you Jim for explaining what should be obvious about freedoms of opinion and expression that we all should be able to practice. As a veteran, I did not serve to protect someone's right to sit out the anthem. That right does not need protection from foreign threats, where the DoD operates. That freedom needs protection from domestic threats, where every American should be able to discern whether speech is harmless or harmful, and defend the ability of anyone to protest within the bounds of social decency. Semper Fi - Tommy D

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  118. Thank you Jim, for another clearly stated and wonderfully written post...I have taken up coaching at our local school, and this is exactly what we have been working on...Respect...for your team mates and for our opponents...yep, this idea is worth the effort...

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  119. For a contrarian opinion:

    Is it unexpected that people associate the "Star Spangled Banner" with soldiers, veterans, war ?

    Look at the first stanza:

    "perilous fight", "rocket's red glare", "bombs in the air" ...

    Now compare this with the first stanza of the "Wilhelmus" (also written during a war):

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelmus

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  120. Yes - it is unexpected. The song is about a flag and about the perseverance of the flag in the midst of battle. It isn't about the men fighting the battle. It isn't about the men fighting the battle and what their lives are like some 20 years later. It is about a symbol.

    AND ... its written to the tune of an old English drinking song.

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  121. Taking care of the flag was part of my job while I was in the Navy. I know how to put it up, take it down, and how to fold it. My experiences guide how I treat it and how I react to the National Anthem that features it. Those are my actions, and mine alone.

    My experiences also guide how I react when someone like Colin Kaepernick finds that his country hasn't lived up to the things the flag supposed to represent. It is his right as a citizen. Next question, please.

    Thank you so much for writing this, Jim. You express my feelings so much better than I could.

    -Paul Cooper (former QM3/SS)

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  122. Lost in the question of how you feel "as a veteran" is the more interesting question of how you feel about it as Jim Wright, although I suspect there are many points of intersection. Do you ever find it tiresome to be asked your opinion as a category, rather than as an individual?

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    1. Well said, Eric. The US seems to worry too much about what the military think about running the country.

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  123. Another one in the X-ring. Keep em coming, Jim

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  124. Well said, sir!, Thank you. I am glad you got more positive responses than otherwise, but representational democracy is not a popularity contest. You're right, and you wrote it better than I can (I've tried.) And you make the case with grace and humility.

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  125. As always, spot on and eloquently said.

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  126. Well said. I just discovered your blog. I'll definitely be following it from now on.

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  127. I have never been prouder to be a veteran than I was after reading this column.

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  128. I am a US Air Force veteran (Captain) and a member of Kappa Alpha Psi as is Colin Kaepernick. I swore to "protect and defend The Constitution" and that includes all of its provisions for "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

    What does that mean?

    It means I may or may not agree with burning the US flag in public, but since that has been adjudicated at the US Supreme Court, I have to respect your right to do it.

    It means I may or may not understand a woman's right to choose what to do with her own body in terms of abortion, but since that has been adjudicated at the US Supreme Court, I have to respect your right to do it.

    And with sheer irony, I may or may not agree that civilians should be carrying around high-powered weaponry in open carry states to exercise their 2nd Amendment Rights. But the irony that Brock Turner - a convicted rapist and now registered sex offender - got a softball sentence from a judge that thought "jail would be too harsh for him" must now endure the spotlight of the paparazzi, death threats and protesters exercising their 1st Amendment Rights with signage and their 2nd Amendment open carry rights in the state of Ohio (legally), that has been adjudicated at the US Supreme Court and his local municipality signed into LAW by Governor John Kasich, I have to respect their right to do as they wish.

    What it means is Federal Republics "ain't pretty" in practice. It means a Constitution put together during the "horse and buggy" days can't react as swiftly as your Google downloads. What it means is as a Federal Republic, we have to tolerate Alt-Right Racists, Bernie Bros, Black Lives Matter, Neo Nazis and general nincompoops that "create their own realities" and have a RIGHT to speak them because of the aforementioned 1st Amendment no matter how INSANE it sounds. Because Founding Fathers like most humans can't see into the future and the unforeseen consequences of their actions and how they will be interpreted generations hence.

    They were however, very cognizant of things like the Spanish Inquisition and other recent examples of their time to NOT want a government without the separation of church and state. Another Thomas Jefferson quote of note:

    “In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. It is error alone that needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.”
    Thomas Jefferson — in a letter to Horatio Spofford, 1814

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  129. Impeccable my friend...every...single...word.

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  130. Thank you for your words, Shipmate. Couldn't have said it better myself.

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  131. Thank you! You are a voice of reason and truth.

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  132. It is not just military that have to take an oath. This is then one I swore when I became employed by the USPS:
    http://blog.lawinfo.com/2008/11/19/postal-workers-must-take-oath-of-office-to-uphold-the-constitution/

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  133. Well done sir. I am new to your stuff. I really wish I had read this sooner, before I had written my own five article blog post concerning some similar subjects. Your perspective is very illuminating to me, thank you for sharing it.

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  134. As I am still new to your writings I am not sure if you covered what I am about to bring up or not. Disregard everything I am about to say if you have.

    I noticed you never mentioned the pledge of allegiance. Most Americans do not know that a socialist wrote it for socialist purposes. Francis Bellamy wrote it to push the socialist agenda here in America. After discovering this information I did like a lot of people do and hoped that someone else would come along and fix it.

    Well, after reading comments on my own blog articles on this subject, it got me thinking. I decided to re-write Bellamy's pledge. I removed the glaring hypocrisy and restored the ideals set forth by the founding fathers, specifically those found in the Declaration of Independence. I kept my re-write in the same format and flow as Bellamy's for familiarity's sake.

    I wanted to offer a suitable alternative to those who do know of its socialist origin but still want to recite a pledge of allegiance to the founding principles. That is what they have in their hearts when they recite it. I thought it would be much better to be able to actually recite a pledge that was more in line with the founding ideals than Bellamy’s socialist pledge.

    I call it "The American Pledge". Understand that the founding fathers were not in favor of pledges and oaths, but if people feel that they must say a pledge, they can say this in place of Bellamy’s socialist propaganda.

    “I pledge allegiance to the American ideal of self-determination, and to the inalienable rights for which it stands, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, with opportunity and freedom for all.”

    People will be pledging to the founding principles without the hypocrisy. They will also avoid the controversy that not saying it causes among the vast majority of Americans who are still plugged into the matrix.

    Again, I am not sure if you covered this or not. I do not know how you feel about the pledge. I thought I would offer what I know and have done concerning the pledge of allegiance.

    At the bottom is my blog piece on this. Like your blog here, just click on the header and you will be able to see other stuff I have written, if you’re so inclined.

    Good stuff Jim. Keep on keeping on.

    https://disquisitionlibertas.wordpress.com/2016/08/27/i-stopped-standing-for-and-saying-the-pledge-of-allegiance-and-if-you-consider-yourself-a-true-american-you-should-too/

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  135. I put a link to this blog-article on FB with every expectation that they would delete it. Glad to see they are coming around and have returned the post to your page.

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  136. Confronting Jeb! on the debate stage, Trump was all bluster.

    "The one guy that had some special interests that I know of that tried to get me to change my views on something—that was generous and gave me money—was Donald Trump,” Bush said. “He wanted casino gambling in Florida."

    Trump: I didn’t—

    Bush: Yes, you did.

    Trump: Totally false.

    Bush: You wanted it, and you didn’t get it, because I was opposed to—

    Trump: I would have gotten it.
    Repeatedly, Trump denied that he had tried to get Bush to approve gambling, and said that had he asked for it, he would have gotten it.

    But that’s not what Trump said when he was under oath. In 2007, Trump hired Richard Fields to work on bringing casino gambling to Florida. When Fields quit, Trump sued him. His claim then was that he would have gotten casino gambling, but Fields ruined it. In his testimony, Trump claimed that he had tried to persuade Bush by throwing a lavish fundraiser where he could take Bush aside and press him on the gambling issue ...

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