The baseball and softball teams from Des Moines Roosevelt made headlines earlier this summer when they decided to kneel for the National Anthem.
I have tried to give this time to better process their decision and to not put anything in writing while I’m frustrated. As a graduate of Des Moines Roosevelt, I’d like to write an open letter to the student-athletes who are participating.
Des Moines Roosevelt softball & baseball players:
I hope you understand what the National Anthem and the flag represent. I hope you understand that millions of men and women have signed up to give their lives for their country and to preserve our freedom.
I hope you know that, often, enlisting in the military comes at a cost. Whether it is the ultimate sacrifice, mental issues long after military service is complete or something as simple as a little kid missing their dad for six months while he is deployed, freedom is indeed not free.
I hope you have taken the time to really educate yourself about some of the heroic stories out there through America’s history. And it starts at the beginning. Our country’s Founding Fathers and Framers did incredible work. But even before that, the idea of leaving Europe to “discover” America was quite a life-threatening decision.
And then the decision to revolt against the British came with obvious consequences. As the Declaration of Independence says, they pledged to each other their lives, fortunes and sacred honor.
That same sacrifice has been at every turn of every corner in United States history. And it hasn’t been strictly out of self-interest either. It has been, at times, an effort to spread the freedom experience. To stand up for those who cannot stand for themselves. To help people we’ll never meet half the world away as America took stand after stand against evil.
And yes, here in our own country, Americans fought and killed each other in the Civil War.
The National Anthem and the flag do not represent some “oppressive police state” or some sort of “systematic racism.” I sincerely hope you aren’t learning about those false narratives in any of the classrooms I used to sit and learn in as a student.
America is not perfect. It has its flaws and it always has. That’s called the human element.
But America has done more good for the rest of the world than any other nation in the history of civilization.
Slavery, for certain, was not unique to America. It certainly wasn’t born in America.
I would encourage you to focus on how far America has come instead of dwelling on where we were hundreds of years ago.
America has provided the opportunity for its citizens to thrive. We may not all start at the same spot, but we all have the same opportunity to chase and, possibly experience, our dreams.
Now, I want to revisit the idea of “kneeling” out of protest against law enforcement. If there were a school shooting at Des Moines Roosevelt, who would you want to respond? What number would you call?
Might you find yourself relying on the same men in blue that you’re “protesting” today?
I think if each of you are honest, you’ll acknowledge that if you found yourself in an emergency, you would call 911 without hesitation.
Because law enforcement and first responders have it engrained in them to help people. Whether the person in need of help is a man or a woman, black or white, homosexual or straight, Christian or Atheist – whatever – they do not care.
Every day law enforcement officers put on their uniform, they know there is a chance they may not get to take it off.
Who else does that for you?
If there are players on the team who are uncomfortable kneeling for the National Anthem, I encourage you to revisit your decision. I know that peer pressure makes things more difficult.
But there was a teacher at Roosevelt when I attended named Mr. Ketcham. I’m fairly certain he taught social studies.
Above the door to his room was a bumper sticker. It said:
“What’s right is not always popular. What’s popular is not always right.”
I encourage you to do what you believe is right. Don’t act out of fear. Don’t act out of a desire to “follow the crowd.”
Follow what you believe is right.
If you really believe that taking a knee during the National Anthem, while respect is supposed to be shown to our nation, our flag and our military, then keep doing it.
But remember, you have that right and that freedom because of the same flag, the same military and the same country – the same Founders and the same Framers – that you are “protesting.”
They pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to creating and preserving America. Are you willing to do the same?