The raging debate regarding the protests that are occurring during the performance of our national anthem is now monopolizing the news as a fresh sense of patriotism grips the country.
Both sides of the controversy feel confident in their respective positions. They each believe that drawing attention to their point of view is crucial to winning the argument.
That is why social media is filled with dissenting opinions on the subject, some presented with civility and others less so. Even families are being divided by the latest turn of events involving the NFL.
But there is a far more important way to view this discussion and, as usual, it is getting almost no publicity.
The truth is that whether a professional athlete, who is paid at a level that most Americans can scarcely comprehend, chooses to stand or kneel during the playing of our national anthem is of little consequence to millions of citizens who have far greater issues they are forced to deal with.
Examples of those whose lives will not be impacted one way or the other by what happens while the Star Spangled Banner is being played at a sporting event include:
*An exhausted single mother who is working two jobs in an unrelenting struggle to provide the best life possible for her children.
*The parents who are fearful that they will lose the health insurance that is helping to keep their medically fragile child alive.
*The police officer who risks his or her life daily to protect others, including those who disrespect the uniform.
*The person with cerebral palsy who does not have the option of standing or kneeling, and whose life is restricted because they cannot afford the cost of an electric wheelchair.
*The father of three whose factory job has been shipped to another country where there is an abundance of cheap labor and fewer regulations.
*The young person who is facing a bleak future because he is trapped in the inner city, living in a gang-infested neighborhood overrun with drugs.
*The distraught parents who have discovered their child was sexually abused by someone they knew and trusted.
*The soldier who is on his or her third deployment, as they willingly make sacrifices that most of us can’t even imagine.
*The family who is burying a loved one who did not receive the mental health treatment they needed which ultimately led them to take their own life.
*The elderly woman who is constantly forced to choose between food and her medication, both of which are needed in equal measure to ensure her survival.
These are issues that men and women face every day in America, but they are easily forgotten when an emotional subject takes over the national debate. However, these serious life-altering problems will remain long after the furor has died down concerning how athletes choose to behave during the anthem.
It is a fact that every United States citizen has the right to engage in peaceful protest, but, as a nation, we should not let heated political discourse distract us from the real-life challenges so many are struggling with. If we allow ourselves to get caught up in the impassioned argument concerning the right or wrong of a political statement, we run the risk of turning away from the pervasive suffering that happens all around us.
Whether a professional athlete or anyone else, decides to kneel during the anthem is a personal choice they have the right to make. Whether you agree with it or not makes no difference. Whether the President of the United States or any other political figure disagrees with it does not alter an individual’s right to choose how they express themselves.
But, unfortunately, our nation has a tendency to focus on an endless stream of hot-button topics that eventually melt away while we ignore the myriad of pressing issues that threaten to overwhelm society.
Eventually, the way that individuals behave during the national anthem will fade from the public consciousness, but the principled fight to live in a nation where every life is valued and every person receives the dignity and respect they deserve will continue without end.
It is the freedom to disagree over the national anthem that truly makes America great.