The Constitution protects those who kneel as well as those who stand
As an old Army veteran, my military experience prompts me to add my opinion to the continuing controversy over respect due our National Anthem.
As a member of an infantry regiment during the 1950s, I proudly stood tall with my fellow soldiers during the playing of our Star Spangled Banner. My fellow soldiers in those days were of every color, creed and class that made up America. Different as we were, we were banded together by a common oath “to defend the Constitution of the United States of America.”
Yes, our Constitution as dedicated to the proposition of equality under the law. But, outside the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia, a different reality prevailed. In those days, my black comrades were prohibited from joining me in the same restaurant, sitting in the same section at a movie theater, nor could they drink from a water fountain marked “whites only.” Beyond those personal affronts, gross prejudice invaded every facet of a black citizen’s life and non-conformity often met with violent vigilante enforcement.
Despite exposure to such blatant prejudice, my black comrades continued to render loyal and honorable service in defense of our Nation’s Constitution. Yes, the same Constitution that promises racial equality and the one we honor by our National Anthem.
In the decades following my discharge from military service, racial equality has been significantly advanced, but, not without political struggle, which included non-violent protests. Protests, which at the time were highly unpopular with many Americans.
So today when White Nationalism is reemerging in our Nation, I ponder the question, who best honors our Constitution; the one who kneels in protest of racial injustice, or the one who stands, but, advocates racial injustice? My military experience compels my answer to be, the one who kneels.
Unfortunately, our President avoided military service; perhaps had he served, he may better understand that of which he now so loudly complains.
Joseph P. Swallow
United States Army
*The writer is a former Republican member of the Michigan Legislature and a retired Circuit Court Judge.