“I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…”
I have taken this oath a number of times as it was required at each promotion during my naval career. Since I was a “Mustang” (being promoted from the enlisted to the officer ranks), the oath I took as an enlisted member has some different wording, which includes swearing to obey the orders of the President of the US.Thank God that, being retired, I am no longer under the threat of having to obey orders from the President. But, nowhere in any of these versions is a service member obliged to swear to defend the flag or the national anthem.
Donald J Trump, a draft dodger, nor anyone in his immediate family has ever taken this oath. But the one that he did take on January 20, 2017 is quite similar:
“I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
You might notice that this oath also has no reference to flag or anthem. Of course, DJT most likely doesn’t know this. Just as he doesn’t know anything about the Constitution that he has sworn to “preserve, protect and defend”. Otherwise he might have noticed the first amendment to that Constitution that protects free speech.
Flag burning was a widely used protest against the American war in Vietnam. George HW Bush tried to get Republicans in Congress to try to push through an amendment to protect the flag. Many states enacted laws against flag desecration. In many of the laws, desecration included using the flag as clothing, napkins, etc. Trump resurrected the flag burning issue during the campaign stating, “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”
It could seem strange to some that on his web site, DJT sells coffee cozies imprinted with the US flag. I suppose he needs the money for his lawyers. But it’s legal because in 1989, the US Supreme Court ruled that flag-burning was constitutionally protected free speech. George W. Bush tried again in 2006 but couldn’t get it through Congress.
Yes, I stand for the National Anthem if I’m at a live event where it’s being played. And I salute the flag at appropriate times. But I’m not a black person who has for only 53 years lived under the protection of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination based on race, religion, sex, color or national origin. The 14th Amendment, outlawing slavery, was enacted in 1868, less than 100 years before the Civil Rights Act. Virtually all African Americans are descended from slaves. The first slave came to the American colonies in 1619. So it took 345 years for Black Americans to be guaranteed civil rights. The same civil rights that if you were born white were automatically yours. That’s a big deficit to overcome. The assimilation into American society has been stymied by this fact. And the fact of color makes them much more visible and easy targets for those inclined to discriminate, and therefore, assimilation has been much slower than for others.
Race relations in the US had been steadily improving until the last few years (or perhaps it’s longer than that, since I’ve been living in Europe for near 20 years now), when demonstrations against police brutality became more frequent. The police brutality, which had always been going on seemed to be getting worse, (or maybe it’s just due to our instant communications and everyone videoing with their cell phones). We saw white policemen seemingly needlessly killing black men and then being acquitted of charges. The predictable reaction has been violent demonstrations, further dividing the country.
And now, we have a President who has sided with White Supremacists, defending THEIR right to free speech and even going so far as to equate their hate-filled, violent behavior with those who protested against them. Additionally, DJT has pardoned former sheriff, Joe Arpaio of Arizona, who was facing possible jail time for defying a Federal Court order to stop profiling Latinos during traffic patrols. Trump’s pardon came even before Arpaio was sentenced, another slap in the face for the American Courts, coming soon after the Courts put down his Muslim Ban. Very ironic, since he touts himself and Arpaio as being Law and Order men!
While the nuclear crisis with North Korea is spinning out of control and the hurricane-devastation of the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico takes a back seat, DJT’s focus is on some Black NFL players protesting the ongoing discrimination of African Americans by not standing for the national anthem. “Fire those Sons of Bitches” says the President.
But they are merely exercising their right to free speech, guaranteed to all Americans. You or I may not like the form it takes, but how many of us are jumping up from our couches, knocking over the bowl of popcorn and covering our hearts at the beginning of a game when the first strands of “Oh say can you see”…are heard? If any of the NFL owners heed the President’s words, you can be sure we’ll be looking at another Supreme Court case. Another loser for DJT, the most divisive President our country has ever seen.