Why I do not kneel

I salute the American flag when the Star Spangled Banner is played.

I stand at attention, left hand ramrod straight at my sides, fingers curled, thumb pointing straight at the center of the earth. Shoulders squared, gut sucked in … as much as possible, which could be flatter, but I’m working on it. Right arm abducted, forearm bent, wrist and fingers aligned, thumb in close and not hanging all tired and limp. Index finger a millimeter from the right lateral eyebrow. Eyes all ahead full.

I salute because I earned it, and I’m actually proud that I earned it the hard way, with 26 years active service in the US Air Force and US Army. President Bush signed a law in 2009 that gave retirees this privilege. Thank you, Mr. President.

I also salute because I respect our country, our constitution, our strengths and our flaws. Not to conform. Not to inspire. Not a statement. More like meditation, certainly closer to Tai Chi than to the Jack Boot.

Ah, yes, there is a little part of me that thinks, “Ha Ha! I get to do this and you don’t!!” But that self-congratulatory thought passes pretty quickly, now that Colin Kaepernick has taught me a lesson, thank God. I am absolutely not being facetious. For civilians, the boundaries of respectful behavior can be neither prescribed nor proscribed by law, Federal or otherwise, and our freedoms and the diversity of our public opinions, which are the very pith of why we send young men and women to die in war in defense of this nation, will allow it. Must allow it. Must protect it. Our flag is a symbol of these very freedoms.

That I salute.


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