Free- not under the control or in the power of another; able to act or be done as one wishes. 

Freedom- the power or right to act, speak or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint. 

As I did my daily reading over the weekend, I noticed that schools in Florida are now forcing their students to stand during the national anthem if their parents don’t sign a slip stating other wise. 

Yes, that’s right….forcing. 

“Imagine being forced by law to stand for a national anthem that within the lyrics clearly states “land of the free.” Oh the irony gives me chills. Because you know, compulsory patriotism is the best patriotism. Don’t let a student go to pray though, that as well as “moments of silence” have for the most part been completely removed from schools across the nation. 

In Illinois, a student refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance in late August and was reportedly manhandled by a teacher, trying to pull him out of his chair. There was also a student athlete in Massachusetts who chose to kneel during the National Anthem at his high school football game. He was told that he would be suspended for one game, but once the news of his punishment went viral, the suspension was lifted. In Collier County, Florida things escalated quickly as principal Ryan Nemeth told students “You will stand and you will stay quiet.” He then continued to state, “If you don’t stand, you are going to be sent home and you’re not going to be given a refund for your ticket.” Uhhhh… sir can’t do that. Anyone ever heard of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette? It backs up students who choose not to stand. “They have the right to not participate in the Pledge of Allegiance, and presumably; the National Anthem.” The law is the law. You can’t pick and choose who gets to exercise them. That’s a huge issue with America right now. I have also read some teachers have stated that though students do have the right to exercise this, they do not have to right to be disruptive. I agree with this whole heartedly, but what do you find more disruptive….a student staying seated quietly or a tescher coming from behind their desk to manhandle a student out of theirs? Honestly, truly. *Joanne the Scammer voice* Now the Police union is even asking deputies not to escort Dolphin players until they stand for the anthem, because you know…they aren’t going to do their job or protect the “Constitution” that they are sworn to uphold unless people stop exercising their 1st Amendment. Amazing right? 

You see, we have the funny thing we do as Americans….where we only like when people express their rights in ways that make us comfortable. We like when people express their rights in ways that we would express out rights, but when they don’t we try to ostracize them for it and that’s not how it works. With these students I’ve seen so many times people state “well their just kids,” which is correct but that doesn’t mean your school can completely railroad your rights that are clearly stated by the courts. These individuals sitting don’t make you any less patriotic, it won’t make you love your country any less and it won’t hurt you. People are infuriated with these individuals yet this country your so passionate about grants these individuals the right to have a seat/kneel. I won’t be that person to tell someone that they can’t be mad or passionate about, because then that makes me one of the very people I’m talking about….but again these are people’s rights. 

On First Take, Stephen A. Smith stated “Until 2009, no NFL player stood for the National Anthem because players actually stayed in the locker room as the Anthem played. The players were moved to the field during the National Anthem because it was seen as marketing strategy to make players look more patriotic. The United States Department of Defense paid the NFL $5.4 million between 2011 and 2014, and the National Guard $6.7 million between 2013 and 2015 to stage on-field patriotic ceremonies as part of military recruitment budget- line items.” Now I don’t know about you, that sounds a lot like paid patriotism to me. Again, no disrespect to those who have willingly sacrificed their lives, but there’s nothing patriotic about having to pay an organization to display such. 

I don’t know how long these protest will last, but I won’t be the one to tell them they cannot expresss these rights. People can continue to say “he wasn’t doing it before so why now,” and “those HS players are just doing it because Kaepernick did it,” but is that not what we’ve been doing for years? I mean think about it, as a child I stood because my teacher told me to stand. I remember being taught the pledge but not necessarily given background on it until I was in junior high. 

Over the past years, I’ve just realized people are tired of conforming. I remember being told “I hate this new generation, they always want to go against the grain. So rebellious.” And though I’ll never be able to do the great things that these people have done I instantly think of people like Martin Luther King Jr., Claudette Colvin, Rosa Parks, Sojourner Truth, Huey Newton, Nelson Mandela and Malcolm X. Where would I be if they chose to “sit down and shut up?” Where would I be if the slaves chose not to rebel? 

So I end this to say, do the right thing. Stand up for what you believe in even if you stand alone. Express your rights, because somewhere in this world there is an individual who will never have that opportunity. It isn’t being disrespectful or being unamerican, it’s being passionate in a time that this country is truly at odds. You don’t have to conform because it makes others uncomfortable and you don’t have to “leave” because they don’t like it. This is America and the American dream has always been “the belief that anyone regardless of where they were born, or what class they were born into, can attain their own version of success in a society where upward mobility is possible for everyone.”  My version of success may be different from yours. My version of life may be different from yours, but the fact of the matter is we can all coexist and still obtain our “American Dream.” This country has truly lost its way and I pray we find it fast. 

“I am my ancestors wildest dream.”